Blue Paneer and the Great Mold Race April 11, 2013 19:00

At last weekend's edition of Cheesemaking Open House I promised attendees a write-up and photos documenting the cheese we made and what became of it after everyone went home for the day. I'll start with some pics from the tried-and-true Dream Cheese and Camembert; then it will get edgy.  

Dream Cheese

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yogurt becomes dream cheese through the simple expedient of a du-rag

 So-called Dream Cheese (a term coined, I believe, at the wonderful blog The Way of Cheese) is just an appealing name for hung yogurt. Start with some yogurt (make it yourself for maximum street cred). Then rig up a way to hang it so the whey drains out. One great way to do this is to pop it into cheesecloth and suspend it in a half gallon jar by screwing the lid over the cloth. This makes it easy to pop the whole deal into the refrigerator, enabling you to let it hang overnight with no fears of spoilage. We also sell a neat little device that makes the process even easier.

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your friends will never guess how little time you spent making them this dream cheese!

 The next morning, take the lid off the contraption and voilà! Dream Cheese. Use it like you would cream cheese. It's lower in fat but still has great texture. It's also quite tart, not surprisingly for something that is in essence concentrated yogurt.


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some might think "camembert-style" is even a stretch.

 A purist might hesitate to use the name, but for our purposes this little cheese is designed to approximate its namesake. Here's how it looks when it comes out of the mould. Note we didn't use a proper camembert mould in the demo, but rather a brosse style soft cheese mould.

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loosely wrapped for protection, the young cheese dries enough to form a rind

 The young cheese gets rubbed with salt (2 tsp / gallon milk) then wrapped in a shroud of perforated plastic bandage netting. This protects the cheese while it dries and begins to form a rind.

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still a bit too wet

 After a few days the cheese starts to attain that delicious aroma of white mould-ripened cheese. Ideally, you want the outside of the cheese to be dry to the touch at this stage, but this wheel has dried slowly, so rather than continue to leave it at room temperature we'll wrap it up in 2 layer paper (again for moisture management) and pop it in the refrigerator.

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shiny side out!

 A five day old cheese wrapped up. Shiny side out, papery side in!  

Blue Paneer?

Ok, this is the part I really wanted to show you. During the demo, we went through the traditional process of making paneer, i.e. heated milk to boiling and then added a small amount of acid while stirring. After about five minutes, the curds are well formed and can be scooped into a colander for pressing. In this case, they're going into a tubular soft cheese mould intended for chevre.

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an unconventional paneer press

 The curds are packed into the chevre mould as shown; a 250ml mason jar filled with water fits almost perfectly into the mould and will help expel whey and firm up the cheese.

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after 10-12 hours of light pressing

 The cheese is pressed overnight, then the weight (jar) is removed. Some of the curd has squished up around the weight, but we'll trim that off.

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Here's the cheese after coming out of the mould.


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after light trimming

 The uneven top gets trimmed off with a sharp knife. The idea is to have a smooth surface to promote a good rind forming. As you can see, the surface is quite irregular so trimming the cheese may be a futile exercise.

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bisected cheese log

 Then the cheese is cut into two equal pucks.

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inoculant 1

 One of them gets sprinkled with about 1/16th tsp blue mold (penicilium roqueforti) spore powder.

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inoculant 1 again

 It's hard to distribute such a small amount of powder evenly over a wet cheese, but I did my best.

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inoculant 2

 It's twin got sprinkled with a slightly larger quantity of dried, ground gorgonzola cheese. They both get wrapped in bandage netting to dry out a bit. Now we'll have a race!

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5 days later

 After nearly a week, the outside has dried and firmed up a bit. Gorgonzola dust on the left, freeze dried culture on the right. Considerably more growth on the gorgonzola. It looks gross but smells like lovely blue cheese.

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ready, set, go

 Just like the "camembert" the twins get wrapped in 2-layer paper and popped in an "aging chamber." This consists of a bit of draining mat in the bottom of a tupperware.

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humidity-control tupperware

 The three cheeses side by side. The lids get put on loosely, but with a corner up to allow moisture to escape. Then they get popped in the refrigerator to moulder away! What will happen? Will the gorgonzola cheese stay out in front of the freeze dried culture? Or will the lab culture come from behind??

Update May 10, 2013

I couldn't wait any longer, so pulled them out for a little peek.

The recultured mold cheese. It's got a mottled but quite thorough coating of what looks just like bread mould.
And here's the lab strain. Note the emerging visual similarity. What I really want to know is, does it taste like blue cheese? Also, did the spaces left between the curds allow enough air entry to create blue veins?
The recultured cheese first. Note the reddish color on the inner rind; I suspect this results from wild brevibacterium linens, the same characters that lend muenster and Limburger their colour. The flavour is mild and a bit nutty, with very little of the pungency typical of blue cheeses. 
The freeze-dried culture when sliced shows no sign of red bacteria and a more uniform rind. There is some noticeable and pleasant blue cheese pungency, but it is still quite mild.


Overall, the penicillium roqueforti seems to have dominated more thoroughly when inoculated with lab culture. Note that neither cheese has developed any internal blue veins; the open curd structure evidently compressed in the mould or during rind formation, preventing the mold from forming within. This explains why cheese makers commonly puncture blue cheeses to create air channels that become blue veins. I will plan to do this next time.