The Lady’s nose is buried in Max McCalman’s latest book, Mastering Cheese and just finished the chapter that outlines the eight basic steps of cheesemaking. Max used the work of a Dairy Science Professor. The Lady shared this information with me and I made an executive decision to include this information in our Cheese 101: Learning the Basics to Make You an Expert.
In 1983, Cornell University’s Frank V. Kosikowski announced his intention to create the American Cheese Society. He did, serving as its first president. This event helped launch the renaissance of artisan cheese making in the United States. Sally Jackson was already making cheese in Washington State after obtaining a government grant during the Carter Administration and both Laura Chenel and Mary Keehn were making chevres that would become award winners… the American cheese game was on…
As a dairy science professor, Kosikowski developed the eight basic steps in cheesemaking. As with all artistic endeavors, these steps aren’t etched in stone, unless you are a sculpture…, but it’s a great general outline in what goes into basic cheesemaking.
The Lady and I thank Dr. Kosikowski for his work in making this outline and Max for sharing it in his book. We will share this information in several installments here on the blog.
Step 2: Cutting the Curds
As soon as coagulation occurs, the curds naturally begin to expel the whey, which is mostly water. Cutting the curd will help decide the moisture content in the finished cheese. The more surfaces the curd has, the more whey is expelled. If the cheesemaker wants to make a softer cheese with a higher moisture content, then he cuts the curd into large pieces; if the cheesemaker wants a harder cheese with less moisture, then he will cut smaller curds. The smaller the curd, the more whey that is expelled and the harder the cheese.
This is a very important step because the curd must be cut properly to expel the whey properly. If the break is ragged, then the moisture content will be off and the cheesemaker will not be able to make the cheese with the texture and moisture desired.
Curds should be uniform in size, again to guarantee even moisture and texture in the finished cheese. Traditional recipes use familiar items to recommend the correct size: peas, grains of rice, nuts, etc. When The Lady made cheese at Emmi Roth-Kase in Wisconsin, a “harp” was used to cut the curd when they were making the Award-Winning Gran Queso. A harp is a metal frame that consists of wires evenly spaced within the frame. Some cheesemakers use knives.
Some curd is barely (or not at all) cut; but gently ladled into hoops or molds to make a very soft and high moisture content cheese. For this style cheese, Step 2 is not necessary.
Up next: Step 3: Cooking and Holding