Cheddar – PART TWO: The Magic

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Where did we leave off again? *Reads past blog, laughs at my own jokes.* The last thing we did was admire the “cheddaring” process, which is fusion and stretching of the curds which causes that beautiful strength and elasticity. At the tail-end of that stretching and stacking process, we start to check the acidity levels of the cheese. Too low of a pH in the cheese can cause bitterness and an acidic taste. Too high of a pH level can inhibit the flavor intensity and gives ground to odd flavors. The pH at this stage also affects the texture of the cheddar further down the line. So how we check the acidity levels is MAGIC. Some people may try to tell you that its “math” and “science,” but friends, don’t believe them. Don’t be swayed by their over-simplification of a divine process. HAH. Just kidding, it is like super sciency, I just understand literally 0% of it. You guys are probably wondering, “why is she trying to explain something she knows absolutely nothing about?” Good question. I think my answer to your query would fall somewhere between “BECAUSE I’M WITTY” and “BECAUSE I CAN.” Take your pick.

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SO first we collect a little sample of the whey that is being expelled from the curds. It flows down like a little stream to the valve. We have this little measuring thing that we use to get the 10ml we need for the test. But we don’t get a cool little turkey-baster style one, or anything like that. No, that would be too convenient. Instead, it’s a fancy straw, so you suck the whey up into it and then pop your finger on top of it and let some drip out until it reaches the line of 10ml.

 

 

 

Stay on target.

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STAY

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ON TARGET

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YOU BLEW IT

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Got it.

We put that in our fancy little Petri dish (a hacked off bottom of a yogurt cup). Then we add five drops of this proplylshfmaihfinsdfn acid thing. It’s a “P” word, that’s all I know. Don’t worry about it, it’s not important. What IS important is this little dropper-vial it is in. I just want someone to walk me through their thought process with mending this thing. Literally just popped another dropper cap into the old one and was like “I FIXED IT.” I’m not even joking. And it has been that way for years now.  You may be starting to deduce that we are jimmy-riggers around here. Farmers, you know? If it works, it works. That’s all that matters.

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Here comes the magic. So into the 10ml of whey and the five drops of the propotatothylensene stuff and then we add NaOH which Google tells me is “Sodium Hydroxide.” Who knew, am I right? I know one of you just said “anyone who took any science class ever” and my answer to you is “BYE.” I was into theater, okay? Don’t judge me. So you know about Sodium Hydroxide, but can you literally *slay* all the songs from Oklahoma? I thought not. So sit down.

When the Sodium Hydroxide hits the whey and propenguinethelyne it goes full 1989 FUSCHIA. We add it bit by bit and when swirled around, it fades to a pale peach and then it is gone without a trace. MAGIC.

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We are shooting for a certain amount of Sodium Hydroxide to fade out to know when the pH is at a good point for those stretchy curd blocks to be milled. When it happens, it’s SHOWTIME.

So milling isn’t one of those “hold on, let me go get my phone and take a picture of this” kind of jobs. We actually have to work fairly quickly and throw the curd blocks in the machine to be chopped up, and then we have to move the curd around a bit so it doesn’t get tempted to fuse back together. So here is a picture of our mill after we milled all of it!

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Now we dry-salt the cheese curds. Now with a cheese like Gouda, for example, we form the wheels and then give it a two day brine-bath. With cheddar, you just throw salt on it like it’s your dinner plate. Not a little, and not from a mouse-shaped shaker (here’s looking at you Ruth…I mean Mom…) we are talking 7.5 pounds of salt in a bucket. So we salt it and stir and salt it again and stir and stir.

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At this point we dose it out into little half-pound containers for your instant gratification, or we pack it in our forms and it presses overnight for some dope cheddar in a few months. This would also be the stage when we would add dried garlic and dill for you herby-folks. And I’d love to tell you that there’s a special way of knowing how much to put in, but every week it is pretty much, “Ummm…I guess that’ll do.”

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NOTE: Never forget to up the pressure on your cheese presses. This is a very applicable life lesson. There needs to be PRESSURE on these babies. Like “you are an adult you should be able to make your own dentist appointments, Marlies” kind of pressure. Sorry, I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.

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ADULTING IS HARD. CHEDDAR IS COOL. HAVE A GOOD DAY!! Just gotta go wash the dill smell out of my hair and clothes now.

The Laws of Cheese

There are a few universal laws every cheese lover should know. From the caring of cheese to serving it properly, here are a few points to keep in mind next time you bring some delicious cheeses home to enjoy!

  1. Don’t put unwrapped cheese in the fridge. It will dry out faster than our squeaky cheese gets snatched off the shelves. Instead wrap it in cheese paper or baking paper so it can breathe but still retain the correct texture.
  2. Don’t serve it cold! Cheese is always better at room temperature! The flavors in the cheese will be much fuller if you give the cheese time to warm up from being in the fridge.goudawheels
  3. If you have a cheese plate featuring a variety, use a different tool to cut each one or wash your knife between uses. This is to prevent the transferring of flavors, something like a blue cheese would definitely over power a milder Gouda if the flavors were mixed.
  4. Don’t freeze fresh cheese. Cheeses like Mozzarella and our Paneer will lose its soft texture and become dried out and rubbery.cheeseboard

Do you Dahi?

Well do you?

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Dahi (the Hindi word for yogurt) is a thick, creamy, yogurt traditionally made in India. However, we also produce it here! Yogurt days are considered “fun days” back in the plant. It’s a process that takes up a couple tanks, so usually we only produce yogurt making it a relatively light day. For the most part we just fill containers and buckets with a thick milky substance, chat, and try to make sure the cup filling machine (that thing has a personality all its own!) behaves itself.

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After the containers are filled they are then transferred to a warm room where the yogurt begins to set up. This is how we achieve that thick substance. There are no gelatins or preservatives in this type of yogurt, it’s just milk and a yogurt culture. They sit in the warm room for the afternoon, then are transferred to the cooler where they await to be packed up and shipped out.

When describing our yogurt to a customer, I typically compare it to a Greek yogurt. It’s got the thick, creamy goodness that could hold a spoon straight up! It’s also made with a milk powder, so there are more milk sugars, making it naturally sweeter than typical plain yogurt. However, if you are looking to use it in cooking it is very different. Greek style yogurts are made with additional additives (gelatin’s) to make it stiffer, and these break down when cooked causing problems with whatever you are making. Our Dahi style yogurt has nothing extra added to it, so it is wonderful to bake/cook with! Check back Thursday for a new yogurt recipe, but until then you can always try a dollop over some fresh fruit!

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5 reasons for Diabetics to love cheese!

For Diabetics, it’s typically not a great idea to cover everything in cheese (but hey, no judging if you do it anyway) due to the calories and saturated fat levels, but when paired with a well-rounded diet, a little cheese course can be an excellent thing! Here’s why!

  1. The protein in cheese can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates eaten at the same meal or snack and therefore help balance your blood-sugar levels and improve mood as well. Paneer
  2. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cheese eaters reported a 12% lower risk of diabetes than those who refused the goodness of cheese.
  3. Cheese has a low glycemic index, therefore if you pair it with a high GI item, it will balance to form a combo that would only moderately affect your blood sugar levels. For example, eating a piece of bread paired with cheeses would have a lower GI than the bread alone. cheddarandbread
  4. Replacing calories from carbs with calories from cheese is a great way to help achieve a more balanced blood sugar level. A good example of this would be using less pasta noodles in a baked pasta dish and instead adding a low-fat ricotta.
  5. Stronger tasting cheeses (something with an age or a flavor like our Sweet Red Pepper Gouda) will be easier to use as a replacement, because they have a fuller flavor. So you wouldn’t need as much Sharp Cheddar for example, as you would a milder version. cheddarbuffer2

What makes Quark special?

First of all, the name is pretty special don’t you think? The first time someone hears the name always gets a pretty good facial expression. Quark is mostly compared to cream cheese or sour cream, and makes a great substitute for either. This soft white cheese can also be compared to/substituted for ricotta and mascarpone. There are certain things to do when using Quark as a substitute, but overall it can be a great tasting, high protein, low fat alternative!

Quark is a German cheese classified as “fresh acid-set”. What that means, is the milk is heated, a coagulant (like an acid) is added, and it sets up overnight before it is packaged. I would describe the flavor most like a sour cream, but with a stronger, tangier aftertaste.

Cream-Cheese

Cream cheese is made in a similar process as Quark in that it’s heated and a coagulant is added. Mascarpone is also made similarly, but it’s basically one step away from butter. SO rich! It’s richness is perfect in desserts such as tiramisu!

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Sour cream however, is made by fermenting (heating) cream or milk, and adding a specific bacteria (in place of an acid) to thicken.

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Ricotta is a little more fun because it’s a “whey cheese”. The whey is the byproduct of other cheeses such as Mozzarella. Ricotta is made by heating whey to a high temperature and adding an acid to create curd! It has a little more of a grainy, almost fluffy texture when eaten plain, but for the most part it’s a cooking cheese. The plain, very mild flavor blends well when baked into things like a cheesy lasagna!

 

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Each of these cheeses have their own unique flavors and textures, but all are great! Check in on Thursday to see exactly how to use Quark as a substitute for any of these cheeses!

Good News for Cheese Addicts!

You are officially legit.

Cheese is scientifically proven to be like a drug! I’m not even kidding. Yes, some of us have a loving relationship with our cheese, but we have research to prove there is more to it!

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Researchers have known since the 1980’s that cheese contains small traces of morphine, the same drug given as a painkiller in hospitals. No, it is not put there by evil people hoping to get you hooked on cheese. It is found to be produced naturally by both human and animal mothers! These little bits of morphine help the baby (calves or humans) to form a bond with the mother, and in turn get all the nutrients they need to grow.

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Scientists have also found cheese to contain concentrated levels of protein casein. When digested, the casein breaks down into casomorphins which produces opiate effects!

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Now, both these factors are very small and don’t really do much due to the morphine being neutralized by your body before it hits your blood stream. It’s the same reason poppy seeds don’t make you “happy”. Now when you refer to someone as a “Cheese Addict”, know you can back it up and start a fun conversation to boot!

Moldy Goodness

Doesn’t mold sound yummy? I mean you can’t have a tasty treat without a healthy covering of mold am I right? Believe it or not, many cheese lovers would absolutely agree with the above statement! While it is usually a solid sign to throw out its host, there are many types of cheese where just the right type of mold is coaxed and encouraged to grow. In some cheeses (blue cheese anyone?) this ingredient is actually injected into the cheese to produce that unique and strong flavor. Pair-Blue

But first! A definition of what makes this mold different.

“The molds and micro flora used in cheese making are actually microscopic organisms that are safe to eat. They produce distinct aromas and flavors on their own, as well as through integration with the cheese. It is not unusual for multiple strains to be used in a single cheese. This is often done when a secondary organism creates or improves the environment for the primary organism.”
-James R. Leverentz, The Complete Idiots Guide to Cheese making

All cheese will grow mold if left alone long enough. The key is knowing if it is meant to be there or not! Soft cheeses like cream cheese, sour cream, or even our Paneer should be thrown away if you see any colorful spots. However, harder cheeses like cheddar or Gouda can be cleaned up and enjoyed. Simply cut away the outer quarter to half an inch, and use the remaining cheese within a week.

One popular type of cheese with a deliberate moldy rind is Camembert. The only cheese in our store we do not make in house is a Cirrus Camembert we bring in from Mt. Townsend Creamery. Come in and try it for yourself! As this cheese is aging, it is sprayed with a specific type of mold called Penicillium candidum. As it grows, the fuzzy white stuff is patted down periodically to create an edible rind covering the entire surface. The result is a cheese with a soft, mild center with a flavorful coating!

Camembert

Blue cheese is another popular cheese which uses mold as a key ingredient. This one is called Penicillium roqueforti. It is layered in with the curd as it’s being pressed into shape. Then, it’s activated by “spiking” (injecting) the cheese with air to expose the bacteria. This is what causes the little blue-green, flavor packed ribbons this type of cheese is named for!

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Chances are, if you just adore cheese, you will end up liking these types of cheeses eventually. In my younger years I didn’t care for anything with a strong flavor, especially anything with an older age. Now, I love older cheeses, especially over milder flavors.  If you are just beginning your cheese journey however, I would start with something a little milder before jumping into a full on aged blue. But hey, if you are a bold person, then go for it!

The Paneer Super Team

Let me introduce you to one of the most appreciated teams in the cheese plant. The tall one is Gerrit.  The little one is Maria. Gerrit is John (the cheese maker) and Ruth’s (the Cheese Shop lady) son, and has worked on and off for either the farm or in the cheese room for over 10 years. Maria has been with us for about 4 years, and is a wife and a mom to 2 beautiful daughters.

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This unlikely duo make up the “Paneer Super Team” of our little cheese room. Paneer is an Indian style cheese often used as a meat substitute. People compare it to tofu, but it’s honestly SO much better! When we were younger we used to sneak the odds and ends from the cheese room and climb up into the haymow to nibble on our prizes. To this day, paneer isn’t quite as good unless it’s fresh from the vat!

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Making paneer was never a coveted job in the plant. It’s hot, steamy, and takes up most of the morning because the milk can only come gushing through the pipes so fast. Then because of the intense heat of the milk, everything gets very cooked on making clean up rather difficult. Before we had a designated “Paneer Team” I remember people trying to avoid the task and jokingly bribing others to do it.

Production

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Paneer is created by heating milk to 175 degrees, and stirring vinegar into the milk to create a frothy white curd. It is then transferred to large stainless steel baskets where heavy plates are placed on top to squeeze all the whey out. After it has cooled it can then be cut and packaged into various sizes and shipped out! It’s the simplest cheese we make here at Appel Farms, but also one of the more physical.

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We are very thankful for Gerrit and Maria because they come in regularly to complete almost every aspect of this particular cheese. One thing I have learned about cheese production (this is especially true with Paneer), is you spend more time cleaning than actually making cheese. This team ends up spending much of their time scrubbing the ultra-cooked paneer curd off the pasteurizer walls, plates, pipes, paddles… everything! Cheese can be messy, but EVERYTHING must be spotless before moving on to the next task.

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7 things you should know about our Squeaky Cheese!

If you are new to the land of cheese or are looking to get a loved one hooked,  you need to come in and try our Squeaky Cheese! Now, there is a chance you may not know what this noisy cheese is exactly, so I have compiled a list of a few things you really should know!

  1. Squeaky Cheese is a super fresh cheddar curd. When we make cheddar we separate a portion of it for squeaky cheese while the rest is pressed into rounds and aged for cheddar. 
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  2. Because of its freshness, it squeaks against your teeth when you eat it. This is how you can tell if your curd is truly fresh or not! 
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  3. We make it in two different flavors, plain, and garlic & dill!
  4. There are a few ways to enjoy your squeaky cheese, the most popular way (and easiest) is straight out of the cup! No slicing makes it the perfect low key, kid friendly, snack cheese.
  5. Personally, I think the best way to have squeaky cheese is battered and deep fried. Like a mozzarella stick, but SO much better! 
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  6. You can find this cheese in our store (of course!), all the Edaleen Dairy locations, as well as the Seattle Farmers Markets!
  7. For a few of the slower winter months we are on a bimonthly schedule, but for most of the year (including currently) we produce this treat every Thursday! If you really want to have squeaky cheese in its prime, pop into our store Thursdays after 4:00!

Once you know what it is and have tried it, you will not be able to live without it. I know because when you tell people the squeaky cheese is sold out, they melt into a puddle of misery. Okay, not quite, but it is pretty addicting! 😉

Rennet 101

In the process of my short-ish (10 years) cheese making career, I learned much from my excellent teachers. Unfortunately, I also learned a few lessons the hard way. I try to blame it on my hair color, but that doesn’t really fly. One of these difficult lessons was, if you mess up adding the coagulant (or forget it entirely…opps.) you don’t get cheese. You just get this unusable milky stuff that has to be dumped down the drain. I thank the Lord even now, for such a gracious and understanding Uncle/Boss who never gave me a harsh word and reassured me of the lessons I could learn in that situation. And so, welcome to Rennet 101! Class is officially in session!

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We use a microbial rennet for our Gouda, but some cheeses (such as our Paneer) use other kinds of coagulants. Basically something acidic to cause the milk to react and form little curds. Citric acid (lemon juice is common), vinegar (which is what we use for our Paneer), and tartaric acid are other options used in cheese making.

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When I made cheese in our plant, rennet was this syrupy brown substance (think a true maple syrup “that-came-out-way-too-fast” consistency, not so much Mrs. Butterworths slow-as-tar thickness) responsible for turning milk into curd. Exact down to the millimeter, we stir it into a squeaky clean, ultra sanitized bucket of water to dilute it into more of a light amber color. Then, with the paddles spinning furiously, we pour the rennet into the huge vat of milk. The rennet stirs for exactly 2 minutes and 20 seconds before we halt the paddles, and let the milk rest for half an hour. This is when it does its magic and everything from there on out is decently simple…as long as you got the rennet correct.

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This is my cousin Marlies, holding a Feta curd. She’s a good sport allowing me to plaster her beautiful face all over. 😉

This magic cheese making ingredient has four different types.

  1. Calf Rennet. Made from the (chymosin) enzymes found in a calf’s stomach lining, this is the original and most traditional type of rennet.
  2. Plant Rennet. This is where plants are soaked in water to extract a thickening enzyme similar to the one found in calves.
  3. Genetically Engineered Rennet. Since this one is a little more technical, here is a real definition of the process.

    “Chymosin chromosomes are extracted from an animal’s stomach cells then implanted into yeast cultures that act as a host. The host culture encourages the growth of new chymosin enzymes. The new chymosin enzymes are separated out and purified.”
    www.cheese.about.com

    Sounds pretty scientific doesn’t it?

  4. Microbial Rennet. Enzymes similar to chymosin (the one found in the stomach lining of a calf), can be found and extracted from some molds to produce this type of rennet. This is the rennet we use to create our fabulous cheeses!

*Side note, if you read “mold” and thought “ew.”, mold is actually a good thing and very common in the cheese world! Cheese making strictly uses molds which are safe to eat, and are used often to produce unique flavors and aromas.

Various rennets produce different results in cheeses, so you have to know how to work with them. They tend to be a little touchy, hence the rennet being the most exact bit of cheese making. In my mind at least!