When I was learning in France from La Chevrerie des Embetsches, I do not think I could have estimated how sacred the knowledge of basic temperature controls and humidity levels would be back in the states. I should have recorded more, I always think, but I was young and following the feeling of the craft, not the science. I know better now. The science is what makes the industry move forward in ways that seem viable to the public.
At the moment, I am exploring ideal conditions for each type of soft-ripened goat cheese variety during aging. Working with different types of space, it is interesting to me to see how well it works to put soft-ripened styles with wash rind styles in the same room. Definitely, the soft-ripened styles must be covered if they are to be place in the same room. My one concern is that wash rinds need slightly warmer conditions with higher humidity levels than the soft ripened styles, so the soft-ripened styles would ripen too fast.
Let the conversation continue as we carry on to discover the best way to age cheese at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.
All information below is derived from Cheese Making Supply in South Deerfield, MA.
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1. What is the difference between smear and washed rind cheeses?
Smear and washed rinds are essentially the same. The key here is the red to orange yellow surface with a characteristic B. Linens aroma that can range from mild to strong. All of these cheeses rely on a surface developed from washing or smearing with salt water and Coryneform (B. Linens) enhanced solution.
Look for a moist but not wet surface. There should be no slimy surfaces or dried cracking surfaces. It should be red to orange/yellow with perhaps a light white mold growing through it. The paste needs to be fully ripened with little to no opaque curdiness in the center.
2. Can I age my mold-ripened cheeses in the same area as my washed rind cheeses?
The best way to age them is in separate plastic containers with covers. That way, they can all be in the same aging space together. It helps if you wash your hands between opening the different boxes.
3. My mold-ripened cheeses are getting too runny in the middle.
This is a common problem caused by insufficient draining and drying of the curds before moving the cheese to the aging area. This is a very important step because too much moisture will accelerate the protein breakdown. Since this begins near the rind where the white mold is growing, it will result in a runny overripe area just under the surface. Make sure the draining area stays in the 70-74F range and that your drying time is sufficient to get rid of any residual moisture on the surface.
4. The white mold on my soft ripened goat cheese is forming a skin and separating from the cheese.
The problem is not the skin. It is from too much residual moisture in the early curd caused by one or all of the following:
1. In the early part of your process you are not setting your milk firm enough and hence it becomes more difficult to drain.
2. You are not draining them well enough before drying off (can be a problem with late lactation milk). Remember that the curd will lose 10-20% moisture in the drain/dry phase.
3. You are not drying enough or fast enough before the mold starts to form. (Using a fan may help.) Keep the RH below 75-80%. The ideal target here is optimum moisture in the cheese coinciding with the beginning of mold growth – about 5 days.
In a nutshell, what is happening is that your mold begins to form before the cheese has dried down to its desired size. Once the mold forms, its jacket and the curd continues to shrink due to moisture loss and the cheese becomes a size too small for its coat. Another problem here is that this is also the area where protein breakdown (proteolysis) happens the fastest with excess moisture. This can result in a very runny paste, which is why the skin falls away. These cheeses generally ripen very early near the surface while they are chalky and firm in the middle.