Monday, November 21, 2011

Learned Something New - Cracks In My Cheddars

Before I get into what I learned by making cheddars, regarding cracking, I have a pic of my Caciotta a day after it has come out of it's brine bath.  I did not use a flash but kept it low light so you can see the couple of specs of saffron on the surface.  What you cannot see is that the saffron continues to infuse yellow color around the threads of saffron, so there are areas where it's brighter yellow with the orange thread in the center.  Glad I decided to keep the threads in the cheese, and not skim them off before draining.  I can smell the slight aroma of saffron if I get my nose close enough to the cheese.  This should be ready by the Holidays...only 4 weeks to ripen.

Now to the cheddar cracks.  My plain cheddar is just fine.  The cut curds knitted nicely, and the surface is drying properly.  The two flavored cheddars developed cracks, more like "looseness" between the curds where they meet.  I read up on it and found that by immersing in the port and beer for 30 minutes, the curds cooled too much and that's what caused them to not knit properly.  Also, it's really dry in the house and they may be drying too fast. Even though they are well packed, if you move or bend the cheese even slightly while handling, you can see a slight separation occur.

OK, I know what causes it.  How do I fix it?  First off, I've read that I need to keep the curds warm until I pack them in the mold.  That means my port and beer needed to be around 100F while they soaked, not room temperature as my recipe called for.  I already made notes in the margin of the recipe book to remind me in the future to do this.  I need to have the surface sealed before I wax them.  So how can I repair the cheese once this happens?  The trick is to immerse the cheese in 150F water for 60 seconds, then repress it for a couple hours.  I made a solution of 3% salt water and did just that.  I placed the cheese on cheesecloth and used it to dunk the cheese, quickly rewrapped it and put it in the press.  This method to repair the cracks kind of works.  Many of them sealed up, but not right away.  There are a few areas where the curds separate from each other still, but it is better.

Finally, I placed the cheese in an ageing container and left the lid partially off so the cheese dries more slowly.  After drying overnight, a few more areas of separation have sealed up.  The tops are sealed, but the underside resting on the mat were more damp, and there were areas that didn't seal on the underside.  I believe that now that I've flipped the cheese, the undersides will be on top and as they dry slowly, they should knit together.

Many thanks to Glenn K. for pointing me in the right direction to find the solution.


  1. That's a great looking cheese. Does it need to be waxed?

  2. Caciotta is a brined cheese. It spent 6 hours in a cold 20% salt solution to dry out the surface and form a harder rind. According to the recipe, I can either leave it in the ageing container for 4 weeks to develop an even harder rind, or after 1 week, I can wax it. I've decided to wax it. Since I left the saffron threads in it, some are right at the surface, and could attract mold growth. That's why I'm waxing it. That and my continuing problems with the Port Salut, which is supposed to have a natural rind after it's salt bath, but continues to attract other mold.