Apr. 2012 9

Science – Making Cheese from Chocolate Milk

This sounds pretty weird but yesterday I tried to make cheese from chocolate milk.   I got the idea a few nights back at a dinner with other cheese makers when someone brought out some Promised Land Chocolate Milk.  Earlier in the day we had make butter from Promised Land cream, so it was a natural connection to look at this bottle of chocolatey goodness and think “gee, could this be used to make cheese?”.  I looked at my new friend Jose and could see that he was thinking the same thing.   We discussed the project and decided that it was the natural next step.

Now I know that you are thinking this is nothing new, why you just had some chocolate cream cheese the other day.   Not the same thing!  You can add chocolate after making the cheese, but we are scientists here!  This project requires using milk that has chocolate already in it.  Besides, I wanted to make a firmer cheese than cream cheese.  Brie came to mind because it is normally rather mild tasting and should not overpower the taste of the chocolate.  Seriously, who wouldn’t want chocolate Brie?

I bought three half-gallon bottles of  Promised Land Chocolate Milk and started making a Brie from it yesterday morning.  It occurred to me as I put the mesophilic culture in the warm (70 degree F) milk that any sweetener would be converted to something else by the culture along with the lactose in the milk.   This would not be a sweet cheese. I also noticed that Promised Land uses an HTST technique to pasteurize their milk for long shelf life.  This is not good for cheese because it will interfere with the curd production.  I added more calcium chloride than normal to try to compensate.

Brie and Camembert cheeses require a firm curd so I expected to have to wait quite awhile before cutting the curd.  It would appear that the chocolate may act as a buffer because the acidity dropped a lot slower than I would have expected.  This is odd and interesting because chocolate is naturally acidic.  Maybe Promised Land uses Dutch chocolate, which has an added alkali?   The milk took much too long for the curds to form.  By bedtime it looked like the curds might have reached a clean break, so I tried spooning the curds into a Camembert mold.  The curds were runny and not suitable for molding.  Also my wife the chocoholic said that the mess did not taste good.   I thought it was ok, but it was indeed not sweet at all.

I may need to retry this experiment with milk that is not pasteurized to see if that was the primary limiting factor on curd production.   I may also need to make the milk with non-dutch processed chocolate.   Finally, I may need to start the cheese much earlier in the morning to allow more time for the curd to form and firm.  This looks like an interesting experiment, and I need to pass the word to Jose in case he is looking to try the experiment.

Mar. 2012 8

New Zealand Home Made Cheese

I just found a rather nice site focusing on home made cheese in New Zealand: www.homemadecheese.co.nz

Donna offers classes on making cheese so if any Kiwis out there are interested in learning cheese making, here is a great option!

Mar. 2012 7

Beer Washed Cheese

Last weekend I made two alpine cheeses but had problems with the cheese sticking to the cheese cloth.  This ruined the Saturday cheese, so I did some research before trying Sunday.   Deep pock marks or cracks are a real magnet for mold, so this cheese was never going to age properly.  It appears that alpine cheeses are prone to this problem due to low acidity of the curds when they are put in the press.  This makes the curd near the cloth wrap itself in the cloth fibers.  I am not really clear on the concept as I took Chemistry many, many moons ago, and Physics was more my thing.  Suggested solutions to the problem included the following:


  1. Boil the cheese cloth just prior to use to assure that it is really sterile.
  2. Soak the cheese cloth in the whey before ladling the curds into the cloth, to lower the pH (raise the acidity) of the cloth.
  3. Use a cloth with a relatively tight weave.  Loose weave cloths make it easier for the curds to entrap fibers.
  4. Make sure to redress the cheese at least once during pressing.  In other words, every so often take the cheese out of the press, unwrap it and then re-wrap to continue the pressing.


I always do number 4 anyway, but on Saturday the curds were already sticking to the cloth during the first re-wrap.  I did notice that the cloth I had used Saturday was a relatively loose weave.  Sunday I did all four of these.  The curd stuck to the cloth anyway, though not nearly as badly.  I used a fresh cloth for the re-wrap and discarded the old one that had curds sticking to it.  Monday morning when I removed the cheese from the press there was a little sticking but the surface of the cheese looked smooth enough that I think it will age well enough.  Meanwhile I ordered supplies for item 5 which I did not list above:  5. Use Plyban cheese cloth, which is a recent, plastic cheese cloth.   Advertised advantages are that it does not stick to curds and it is easier to clean.   I hope the cloth comes in before Saturday because I want to make more cheese this weekend.

Last night I started washing the rind with a beer-brine made from sea salt and Stone Brewery’s Arrogant Bastard Ale.  I poured about half a 22 ounce bottle into a measuring cup holding about 4 tablespoons of salt:

Big Head Beer

It appears that the rough surfaces of the salt really makes the beer foam.  You can see that the Arrogant Bastard really has a big head.  (Ok so it is justified!  Great beer!)  This wasn’t all of the half bottle of beer so I switched to a larger measuring cup.

After awhile the foam settled down and I swabbed some of the solution on the cheese:

Arrogant Alpine Cheese

You can see the slightly irregular surface of the cheese and a worrisome crevice in the top center of the cheese in the above photo.  I am hoping that the salt solution will keep that crack sterile.

I have a new idea for a cheese that I picked up from a couple of friends at work that I will blog about next.


Mar. 2012 4

Luckenback Claret Alpine Cheese

How’s that for an auspicious post title?  Ok, how’s that for a name for a cheese?  It is a bit of a mouthful, but I think it does the cheese some justice:

This cheese was from four gallons of milk from Sandy Creek Farm near Bridgeport, Texas.  Sandy Creek has lovely Brown Swiss cows and the milk is outstanding.  Unfortunately they do not have a website so I cannot link them.  I used the four gallons of milk, 1/2 teaspoon of Choozit TA61 culture, 1/8 teaspoon of natural rennet and three tablespoons of sea salt to make the cheese.

Once the cheese was pressed and had dried a bit to form a rind, I started a procedure to wash the rind with a mixture of Becker 2009 Claret and sea salt.  I poured 1/2 of the bottle of wine into a container with a fair amount of sea salt and stored the mixture in two small plastic containers.  Every few days I would pour some of the wine/brine into a bowl and swab the cheese with the mixture.

After a couple of applications of the brine I could tell the surface of the cheese was becoming more tough, like stiff leather.  I aged the cheese for a little over 60 days and used up the wine during that time.  This produced a wheel of cheese weighing about 2 pounds and 12 ounces.  The cheese is pretty firm.

Today I cut into the cheese and took a few pictures.

Slice of Cheese

This cheese is my best yet.  The texture is firm but pliable and the milk aged into a wonderful taste.  Strangely I can’t taste or smell the wine on the skin at all, but the color it gave the surface is different and dramatic.  I have cut a chunk that I will ship out tomorrow.

I didn’t want to name the cheese directly from the wine label, since the good folks at Becker do not know me or my cheese.  Their vineyard is between Luckenback and Stonewall, near Fredericksnburg so I picked Luckenback for a nice Texas character in the name.  Maybe Waylon and Willie and the boys would approve of a good Texas cheese.

Feb. 2012 26

The Best Birthday Present

Friday was my birthday and I am one of those people for whom it is difficult to buy a gift.   If I want something I usually buy it, and being an Amazon Prime member, shipping costs are no problem.  The CheeseWife™ often asks me what I want for Christmas or my birthday and I have no idea because I already have two of everything, except for the cats.  We have four of those.

Truthfully, I am more than happy if someone bakes me a cookie.  A friend at work just gave me a little box of tea from Korea and a little decoration shaped like a little Korean drum.  I found that delightful!  The tea is really good too.  Nevertheless, the CheeseWife™ was challenged to put on her thinking cap and came through with the most startling present I have ever heard of.

A little preparatory information: I am a big fan of Stone Brewing Co after stumbling upon some Arrogant Bastard Ale several years ago.  Since then I have had many of Stone’s fine ales and am crazy about them all.  I have introduced many of my friends to Stone’s ales and converted my boss completely into a Stone-head.  He won’t drink anything else now.  Something else I have noticed about Stone is that they are supportive of other fine craft brewers and of home brewers.  That sort of openness is particularly endearing to me.  I have been mulling over producing a cheese with a Stone ale-washed-rind, though my normal mode is to find local Texas products to work with.  Stone is just so good that I may have to bend on this idea.  Last Halloween I even carved a Stone Gargoyle for a Jack o’Lantern (action shot here).  It took me about three hours to complete, but I was refreshed by the contents of the Arrogant Bastard bottle I was using for reference.

Friday (my birthday) while I was at work I saw an email from the CheeseWife™ pointing me to a beer and cheese pairing at Stone Brewing so I tweeted about it and posted something on Facebook for anyone near the San Diego area.  I headed home, thinking that it would be a good night to have some of my Gruyere cheese with a Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  My iPhone ringer was set to vibrate-only as it usually is for a day of work.  When I got home the CheeseWife™ made a point of asking about my phone ringer and had me set it to ring.  She also called it to test the ringer.  She then suggested that I have a beer because she needed to work on my present in the bedroom and don’t come in until she could complete the work.

I settled in with a Self-Righteous Ale and sat down to pet little Libby who had jumped into my lap.  After a while the CheeseWife™ came in and asked if I had heard what she was doing, to which I told her no.  She seemed relieved and started chatting about her book that she is working on.  She also presented me with a bag containing four big bottles of Stone ale.  Presently my iPhone rang and I saw an unfamiliar number with a California area code.

I answered the call and Greg Koch from Stone Brewing introduced himself and wished me a happy birthday.  Greg is co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing.  This event was really pleasantly weird!  Greg was charming and down-to-earth.  He asked if I was drinking one of his beers and said that he had heard that I was one of their biggest fans.  As he was talking I had a brief mental flash about the tweet and the Facebook posting but didn’t think he could get my cell number from those, then it hit me about some of the CheeseWife’s™ slightly odd behavior.  She had called Stone and, over the phone, talked her way to the head of marketing and told them about me and asked if someone well-placed in Stone would call to wish me a Happy Birthday.  I told Greg that someday I would send him one of my homemade cheeses and he seemed really interested.  He made me promise to follow through on that as he is a big fan of cheese.  All in all it was a very nice call and something that will stick with me for a long time.  I have a rather nice looking cheese aging now that should be ready in a couple of weeks.  I will probably send a chunk to Greg along with a nice thank you card.

Seriously, I do not intend to make her jump through hoops to come up with really creative ideas.  However, the CheeseWife™ does not cook, so baking me a cookie is not in the cards.  She is remarkably creative and will talk to anyone about just about anything.  She says that next year she will try to get Max McCalman, of Artisanal Cheese to call me.  I believe that she will!

Update: In the interest of full disclosure I will note that while I am an enthusiastic adopted Texan, I was born at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, graduated high school in Fallbrook and went for one year to Palomar College; all of these a short drive from Escondido where Stone brews their various ales.  My father was a Marine and I only lived in California for about two years and four months total.  I have not been to Stone’s brewery nor am I connected to their fine establishment in any way other than as an extremely happy customer.

Update to the update: Oops, big miss!  The CheeseWife™ and I married on the beach in Del Mar about 11 years ago.  Also a short drive from Escondido.