If you’ve been following the series of articles for the beginner, then you’ll already have read about milk, rennet and starter cultures, which needed an article of their own – and we’ll find even more detail for them in practiced and experienced sections of the community – but there are a number of other ingredients needed to make cheese that should be reviewed before we get into making our first ‘proper’ cheese. This article reviews the most used six.Water – Water is interesting in that we don’t really use it as an ingredient in cheese, rather as a facilitator for other parts of the cheese making process. As you’ve already seen in the mozzarella video, water is used to dissolve/dilute rennet and citric acid, and we also use it to dissolve calcium chloride.
Water’s other main use in cheese making is as a salt solvent, i.e. to make a brine which is used in many cheese recipes.
There are two crucial aspects to water usage: firstly, it needs to be non-chlorinated. This is simply achieved by boiling tap water and allowing it to cool, or by using bottled water. Secondly, the water needs to be quite cool at around 10C to 15C before using.
Lipase Powder – Lipase is an enzyme found in raw cows’ milk which is depleted by pasteurisation and homogenisation. In higher concentration, lipase imparts a stronger, tangy taste to finished cheeses and adding lipase powder to shop-bought milk will have a similar effect.
It’s used particularly in Italian cheese making recipes, such as Parmesan and Mozzarella by adding to the milk before rennet, and it works by ‘freeing’ short chain fatty acids which are fragrant and give that very distinct flavour.
Salt – Probably the most important ingredient after milk, starters and rennet. It enhances flavour, acts as a preservative, aids whey removal from curds and is naturally antibacterial.
We usually either mix it in with the cut curds or we use it to form brine of various concentrations which the pressed cheese is left in for a period of time. The latter is especially the case where we need a certain rind to be formed on the outside of the cheese.
Salt used has to be non-iodised (you’lll often see or hear it referred to as cheese salt), otherwise it will destroy the bacteria which are working hard to generate the flavours of your cheese, and coarse is preferable to fine from a flavour perspective.
Calcium Chloride– As we saw in all about milk the process of pasteurising and homogenising milk reduces the amount of calcium naturally present. As it is this calcium that helps to give a firmer curd, its loss can result in something softer and structurally weaker, so it can be beneficial (although far from essential for the home cheese maker) to replace some of that lost calcium using calcium chloride.
Just like the lipase powder, this is added to the milk before the rennet.
Herbs, Spices and other flavours – We’ve all tasted a cheese with added taste ingredients such as cranberries, pepper and chilli, and really, the world is your oyster when it comes to these. The only watch outs are to make sure that they are clean and they are dry – wet ingredients will only cause an untimely demise in your cheese long before it reaches the biscuit!
One other form of flavour addition is in soaking the cheese before it is wrapped and aged. Alcohol is a common example, such as beer or whisky. This is either added by steeping the curds in the liquor for a period of time before putting into the mould and pressing, or by putting the formed, pressed cheese into the liquor to soak it up before drying, wrapping and aging (of course, both of these methods can be used together to further add flavour).
Annatto – Think red Leicester and it’s annatto that changes the white curds to orange. It’s a yellow/orange dye that comes from the seeds of the achiote tree in tropical countries. It is added to many food products as a dye, as well as textiles, and is readily available not only from cheese ingredient suppliers but as ground annatto paste or achiote paste in larger supermarkets and food stores.
There we have it, six additional ingredients that we have at our disposal to make virtually any of the millions of cheeses available to us out there.
Pick a cheese making kit today from this list of winners and be making cheese in your own kitchen this week!