Cream Cheese Making Part 1: Ripening

For a while, I’ve wanted to make sourdough bagels, the main reason being the recipe and procedure I’m about to share.  I don’t really make cream cheese, rather Neufchatel:  All the flavor and far fewer calories, something I can appreciate at my age!

Cream cheese – I’ll call my Neufchatel that throughout this post – is very easy to make, an excellent starter cheese.  It’s a lactic cheese – acid developed over about 24 hours is the primary coagulation method but it’s helped along by just a bit of rennet.  It requires a couple of things you might not have, a starter culture and rennet.  I use milk and cream from the supermarket, calcium chloride from my brewing supplies.

Ripening the Milk for Cream Cheese

The process takes two full days, one to ripen the milk and another to drain the coagulum – the jelly-like stuff that forms due to acid and rennet action on the milk.  So I’ll split the post into two parts.

Here’s what you’ll need to make the cheese:

  • Some kind of sanitizer.  I use Star San because I have it and it’s easy.   A dilute bleach solution works well, too.
  • A pot large enough to hold a gallon of milk and a pint of cream with room for stirring
  • A spoon to stir with
  • A way to heat the milk without scorching it.  I use the stovetop on low heat, you may want to use a water bath or some other way.
  • Measuring spoons down to 1/8 tsp (or eyeball using a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon)
  • A large colander capable of holding a gallon and a pint
  • About a half square yard of butter muslin (best) or fine cheesecloth (okay)
  • A way to hang the cheese in the butter muslin to drain

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon whole milk.  I use the cheap stuff from King Soopers.
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream.  I use the cheap stuff for this as well.
  • 1/4 tsp 30% (by weight) calcium chloride solution.  You can buy this or mix it up yourself if you have food-grade CaCl2 around.
  • 1/8 tsp Mesophilic Aroma B starter.  I’ve used 1/4 tsp Flora Danica starter but the cheese didn’t come out as good.
  • 3 drops double strength rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool, non-chlorinated water.
  • 1/2 tsp salt.  Since there’s no further ripening of this cheese, either iodized or plain salt will do.

Here’s how you make the cheese:

  1. Sanitize everything.  You’re working with milk and know how quickly it can spoil, microbes like it that much.
  2. Heat the milk and cream to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.  Stir in the calcium chloride solution as the milk is warming.
  3. Sprinke the starter over the top of the milk.  Let it rehydrate five minutes.  Then stir in.
  4. Prepare and add the rennet solution.  Stir into the milk for one minute.  Let the milk stand at room temperature for 18-24 hours.  I usually let it go 24.  I’m sure there’s a way to measure the pH to know when the proper acidity has been reached.  I never have tried to find out.

That’s it for Day 1 of the process.  More to come tomorrow….

Rennet, water dechlorinated with a few drops of milk, infrared thermometer

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Purging Vessels with CO2

One of the bugaboos of my brewing has been oxidation, a papery flavor that develops after the beer has been packaged.  Oxidation alters the flavor of the beer over time, reducing its shelf life, but in extreme cases it can start adversely affecting the beer very quickly.  I’m not talking about hot-side oxidation, that’s been debunked as a factor in beer flavor.  I’m talking about any introduction of oxygen into the beer after yeast has been pitched.

Oxygen is vital to fermentation, at least initially.  I’ve read of some experiments in low-oxygen fermentation but I’m not quite ready to throw out years of brewing experience based on a few experimental runs using various oils as the source of sterols for yeast cell walls.  The problems occur if oxygen is introduced after fermentation is underway.  The compound responsible for the papery flavors can be detected at concentrations less than a part per billion so only a little can adversely affect beer.

As I write, I’m sipping a beer brewed October 4th of last year.  It’s April 18th:  The beer is six months old.  I can detect few signs of aging in it.  About the time of this brew, I got a CO2 tank and began sparging the vessels before transferring beer into them.  In fact, the beer tastes as good as when I bottled it.  By layering a bit of CO2 in the carboys before racking, I limited the amount of oxygen introduced to the finished beer.  It worked, as near as I can tell.  My beers no longer show signs of oxidations, not this nor any of the subsequent brews.

If you can’t afford to go out and buy a carbon dioxide tank and regulator, you can still get some benefits by limiting handling of the finished beer.  If you can avoid racking the beer, you eliminate one possibility to introduce oxygen.  If you have access to another inert gas and can sparge with it, that will work as well.  At least limt flow from the racking cane until the tube is below the level of the beer to limit splashing.  Bottom line, keep oxygen out of your beer.  It will taste better longer.

Time to Resurrect This Site

I sit here drinking a Pre-Prohibition Porter of my own crafting, thinking of writing again about beer and brewing.  I’ve been remiss, busy with other things, mostly life getting in the way.  So what’s Nosy up to?

I’ve started a new hobby, cheese making.  Getting fair at it, too.  Maybe soon I’ll be producing cheese at least as good as I can get at King Soopers.  Hey, they have a pretty extensive cheese selection!  But I still have cheesemaking now, I’m mostly at the same point there I was a few months after starting brewing.  More to come as I learn and discover how to make great cheese.  But the new hobby still fits the title:  Cheesemaking is fermentation.

Baking – we don’t buy bread any more.  That hobby, I’ll start publishing more on it as I bake, again, fermentation!  Wine is going downstairs, three whites to create a blend, a red.  We’ve collected several awards for wine.  As things happen there, I’ll post on it as well.

And finally, beer.  I’ve embarked on a project I’m calling “das Helles-Projekt”.  It’s based around an idea I read where an author drank his way through a certain German city and learned to appreciate different base malts.  My notion is to brew small batches of Helles, all to the same specifications, the only difference being the base malt.  I intend to brew my way through every base malt the local homebrew shop has to offer to learn the differences between them.  Yes, I’ll brew Helles with Maris Otter, Six-Row, Vienna, you name it, if it will convert itself, I’ll brew with it.

And I’ll keep the blog up to date as the project progresses.

Slow Times at Nosy’s Brewery

Not much going on the past couple of weeks.  I got the Kentucky Common bottled soon enough that it should be reasonably well conditioned by the Kentucky Derby party.  The Saison has finished primary fermentation – Wyeast 3724 is a brewer’s test of patience – and is ready to “cellar” for a couple weeks near freezing prior to packaging.  The Maerzen has finished its diacetyl rest and I’m bringing it down to lagering temperature.

It’s snowing again in Denver, for those of you who are interested in such things.  That’s not unusual – our average last snowfall is about April 28th.  I’ve had some fantastic brew days in the snow here.

The bakery is coming along nicely.  A couple weeks ago my grandson and I captured a local sourdough starter.  It makes good bread and is rather fast as sourdough starters go.  My San Francisco starter takes an hour or so longer to ferment and proof.  Yes, when I make a dough, I’m managing a fermentation, whether I’m using regular dried bread yeast or one of my sourdoughs.  This morning I finished my first batch of sourdough wheat hamburger buns.  When I can get to the grill, turkey burgers should be delicious on them with emmenthal or gruyere cheese and chipotle mayo.  As with brewing, there are several keys to good bread and many of them will sound familiar:  There’s time, temperature, “pitch rate” or use of a pre-ferment, starters, how much and what quality of water is used.  My family can eat more bread than I can drink beer so it’s a good way to keep busy between brew days.

The winery is also in a slow phase.  We have two in process right now, a red blend and a white blend.  Rather than following the box instructions, we processed the white blend “Mosel style.”  The box tells us to keep a reserve of grape juice and add that back once the wine is completely fermented.  Now think about that for a minute:  Would you ever keep a reserve of malt extract and add that back to a beer, unless maybe to condition it?  Grape juice does not taste like wine, it tastes like grape juice and the result of adding it back is something that tastes vaguely like grape jelly.  Remembering what my vintner friends in Germany do to produce an off-dry wine, we waited, tested and when the wine was as sweet as we wanted, we added sulfite and sorbate to stop the fermentation and stabilize the wine.  The result matches the great Mosel Reislings I remember fairly well, even though there’s no Reisling in the blend. I may be bottling wines tomorrow and the white blend may be one I’ll forego the occassional bottle of beer to drink.

Today we’re gathering up supplies for the Kentucky Derby party next weekend, 2016’s first beer disposal event.  Cheers!

Brew Day, Maerzen

Okay, so I don’t have umlauts on my tablet keyboard.

There’s something about brewing in April for September consumption but back in the day when lagering was done in ice caves in the Alps, it was what the had to do.  But it is a beautiful sight:

image

I got about 86% conversion out of this batch using a 131 degree, 20 minute protein rest, a 152 degree 60 minute saccarification rest and a 15 minute 170 degree sparge.  The wort came out gorgeous, as you see above.  I got 6 gallons out of it and it’s perking away downstairs at 53 degrees.

All in all an uneventful brew day.  No major catastrophes, nothing went wrong.  Those are the good ones, when you get what you want from the grain and the process, about the only thing that made the day noteworthy was the 25 inches of new Denver snow in the background as I brewed.  But the wind was calm, something I treasure when brewing outside since the least puff of wind can blow my burner out.

My Saison is still chugging away, the brave little yeast cells slurping up the last of the sugars.  It’s down to 1.005 – Wyeast 3724 takes its time but is worth the wait.  It’s now fermenting at 86 degrees, the highest setting on my aquarium heater.  The yeast, known for their finicky nature, seem happy and that’s what matters.  My Kentucky Common is cold crashing.  I’ll put some gelatine in it Wednesday evening to clarify it up for bottling.  It has to be ready for Kentucky Derby day, May 7th.  Still plenty of time to condition.

Fermentation habit number 4 paid off:  I made pizza dough and homemade mozzarella cheese during the Snowpocalypse, pizza from it today.  Sorry, Papa Whozits, mine’s better, right down to the homemade sauce.

Updates

I just pulled a sample of my Kentucky Common.  It finished 2 points lower than I’d wanted – not bad considering I underpitched.  Fermentation control – keeping the temperature cool and within a tight range when the beer is starting to ferment, then letting it warm at the end, is a highly recommended practice.

My other adventures in fermentation are going well.  I’ve made about three batches of fully-fermented sourdough bread over the last two weeks and have been amazed at each.  Not since I lived in Germany have I had such good bread!  The practices used to make the bread are very easy and the results spectacular.

I have a local sourdough starter getting started.  Right now it smells very funky.  Unless it cleans itself up I’ll be feeding it to the sewage system rather than using it to feed doughs.  But I’m following the instructions:  The smell is exactly that of a sour mash.  Come to think of it, the fermentation is very similar.  I’ve mixed up unsanitized flour with water, let it stand open on the countertop to capture wild yeast and bacteria and have cultivated that through warmth.  Since I’m feeding every day as long as it doesn’t go too enteric on me, the “good” yeast and bacteria should crowd out the smelly stuff.  I’m hoping anyway.

My Pre-Prohibition pale ale is great, bitter but not too much so, black currant flavors from the Cluster hops.  Grodziskie also turned out very nice, clear and bubbly and smoky.  I’m happy with all my late winter beers so far.  It seems the Inkbird was a good investment.

Cheers!

Brew Day: Kentucky Common

Today’s brew was the poor man’s brew in northern Kentucky pre-Prohibition.  I’m finding I really like the styles before the Great Mistake – they were more flavorful, stronger, heartier brews than the fizzy yellow stuff that predominated due to economic conditions after Prohibition was repealed.  Here in Colorado, we’re still dealing with some of the fallout.  Our grocery stores can’t sell wine and can only sell 3.2 beer.  That’s 3.2 Alcohol by Weight, not the normal ABV which for 3.2 beer is about 4.5%  The law that forces groceries to sell weaker beer had an unintended consequence:  Local liquor stores, also limited by an obscure Colorado law to one license per person/business, could be talked into stocking local craft brews.  Little breweries didn’t have to pursuade a corporate buyer to stock the stuff, they only had to pursuade the independent liquor store owner down the street.  As a result, Colorado is in competition for craft beer capital of the US.

Of course, the grocery stores want to repeal the 3.2 law.  It won’t be the end of craft beer in Colorado if it passes but it will slow the growth of new smaller breweries.

The brew day was uneventful.  I hit my numbers, no catastrophes, an uneventful relaxing day.  The beer is being made for a Kentucky Derby party so it has to be done by May 7th.  It’s a close schedule but completely reasonable, even given a week to cold-condition and clarify.

I now have a new zymurgological endevour, baking.  Speciically, baking artisan sourdough breads.  It has a lot in common with brewing, four ingredients (flour, yeast, in this case, via a starter, water and salt), fermentation, temperature control, time….  I’ve learned some artisinal techniques that give me great bread with a good crumb, something I couldn’t get before.  I’ll share some of those adventures as well as they happen.  Tomorrow will be the second, the first was a European-style “bauernbrot”, almost the equal of the great breads of Germany.  And I’m changing the title above to reflect the new avocation.  It’s certainly yummy and believe it or not, some of the flavors are exactly the same.

Recipe for Nosy’s Kentucky Common: http://www.brewersfriend.com/homebrew/recipe/view/342571/ky-common-5-1