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 3: Cooking and Holding
The third step in cheesemaking involves some heating or cooking of the curds and then a holding period to let the acidification and cutting effects work. Curds must be treated carefully and gently to keep them from breaking apart or drying out too much.
The stainless steel vats used in cheesemaking have hollow sides that circulate hot water to heat the curds, allowing slow heating and control of the process. The more heat and stirring, the more moisture loss and the harder the end product. And the opposite is also true. To make Brie, low heating and slow cooling is used. For Parmesan, the curds are cooked at a high temperature and stirred more.
As with each step in cheesemaking, savvy, experience and instinct assist the cheesemaker. Some cheesemakers just “know” when the milk is set; when the curds are ready and when the heating and holding process is ready to proceed to the next step. After heating and holding, the cheesemaker usually scoops out a sample of curd, squeezes it, rubs it and judges the amount that sticks to the hand. When it is the way the cheesemaker knows (instinctively and from years of experience)is right, he proceeds.
At this point, the cheesemaker might drain more whey from the curds and replace it with water. This is called “washing the curd”. This can lower the acid level and raise the moisture content. This is optional and again, a decision that the cheesemaker uses based on experience and instinct.
Up next: Step 4, Dipping and Draining; Step 5, Knitting the Curd and Step 6, Pressing the Curd.