Friday, January 30, 2015

Dragonstooth Beer Cheese

When I think of cheese and beer I am remind of two famous lines from the movie Jerry Maguire... "What did the BEER say to the CHEESE? "You complete me" and Cheese response? "You had me at hello"  Yea, yea I know.....but what can I say I am a Corny Foodie.

Allow me to tell you a brief story. I love cheese and I love beer. A marriage made in heaven if you ask me. 

Nuptials were just around the corner and I needed to consummate this union. Trying to visualize what this meant to both parties left me with doubts. What was I to do? Meticulous exploration into the beer world was inescapable. Without thinking I took a leap of faith and made the sacrifice and drank lots of beer. Bottle after bottle, keg after keg, relentless travel to multiple breweries and then it finally happened. I hit beer heaven and found what I believe is the perfect beer for my cheese. Elysian Dragonstooth Stout is the creme de le creme when it comes to Stout beer and it received a very high rating over at Ratebeer which means to me that their union was  foreseen.  For better for worse, until consumption, the beer union was complete.

Before we get started I wanted to say thank you to New England Cheese Making Supply Company for providing the know how and supplies to pull this off beer cheese. I also want to say thank you to Jim who is New England Cheese's technical adviser. He has been very kind to answer all of my cheesy questions.  

This is an adapted recipe from New England cheesemaking Supply company. 

  • 6 gallons of Jersey Cow milk not ultra pasteurized. 
  • 3/4 tsp of MA4002 (meso/thermo combo)
  • 1 1/2 tsp of Calf Rennet
  • 3 Tbl. Cheese salt or Diamond Kosher Salt 
  • 4 bottles of Elysian Dragonstooth Stout or your favorite stout
  • A large mold I used This one M2
  • 1/2 tsp Calcium Chloride

All good cheese is made with good milk. I of course chose Twin-brooks Creamery Jersey cow milk. Amazing milk. I wrote a post on milk which can be found here Udder-ly Milk. A special thanks to the Gig Harbor WA QFC for special ordering me the 6 gallons of milk. 
If you are able to see it from the picture all the cream is at the top. This is the good stuff found only found in the specialty stores most of the time. This stuff is non-homogenized too. The cream at the top was sticking to the sides towards the top of the milk container and had I just poured the milk into another vessel all that good fat would have stayed around the upper rim of the glass jar. I warmed it up a bit in the sink and gave it a good shake to break up that fat. Once the the bottle warmed and shaken I was able to poor all the milk out including the trapped fat. 
Almost all home cheese-makers use double boilers to heat the milk. I chose to use my Sous-Vide to accomplish this. The 38 Quart pot is sitting in a 49 liter poly-carbonate container.
What's really cool about using a Sous-Vide apparatus is the precise control you have over the thermal bath. When you start heating the curd you can control how quickly the temp rises with precision. I also had a 16 quart stock pot on the stove simmering at 200 F to sanitize everything that comes in contact with the cheese. 

I gently heated the milk to 88 F. I used my ThermoWorks Thermapen which is the best instant read thermometer you can ever own. I started my Sous-Vide out at about 110 degrees and as the temp of the milk neared 88 F I adjusted then Sous-Vide temp to reflect 88 F. Having a Sous-Vide makes this somewhat easy. As I was heating the milk I added the Calcium Chloride to the milk and gently stirred to incorporate. One of the reasons you add Calcium Chloride to milk is is replace the calcium that was lost during pasteurization. In the original recipe they used a 1/2 tsp for 2 gallons of milk. I decided to only use 1/2 tsp for 6 gallons of milk. I know a cheese maker that uses this exact milk and never uses it but I wanted to ensure success so I hedged a bit with a 1/2 tsp.  

Once the milk hit 88 F I added the culture. I sprinkled the powder over the milk surface and allowed the powder to re-hydrate for 2 minutes to avoid clumping. After the elapsed time I stirred the milk and kept it at 88 F for one hour. What I have learned so far is the PH is the key. Acidifying the milk to a specific PH is the key to a successful cheese and this is controlled by temperature and time. Each recipe is different and hopefully given enough time and energy I will come to understand and appreciate the journey.

After the elapsed hour and once the Milk temp hits 88 F (ok it dips down a bit) I added the rennet. Now don't forget that most of this is uncharted territory for me and I am learning as I am going. In my opinion cheese making is all about Art, chemistry and biology and if you fail at one of these things your project can turn into a failure. Waiting for Flocculation? Yea this was new to me too. It's all about the curd and when is the proper time to cut it. Too soon or too late can spell failure. The milk needs to set for about 25-30 minutes and this can be determined by flocculation. I am waiting for the culture to change the PH and the rennet to coagulate the curd. Flocculation is the perception of suspended solids out of a liquid. In other words curds are starting to form and the milk is starting to set. Anyhow I am waiting for the curds to become a sold mass which took 29 minutes or so. 

Here is a picture of me testing the curd for coagulation. I inserted a knife into the curd and as you can see I have a clean break. Success is within my reach. Now it time to cut the cheese.....sorry I meant the curds. Sorry I couldn't resist. 

This is the time to cut the curds and release the whey. I need to cut the curds into 1/2-3/4 inch pieces using a very long knife. I will make vertical and horizontal cuts to accomplish this. After doing this I will continue to stir slowly releasing some of the whey and allowing the curds to move freely. The surface will begin to firm up a bit too all while the PH continues to rise and the curds are releasing whey. I am hoping with more practice it will become easy for me to determine what is appropriate for curd development. 

Time to cook the curds. This is done by increasing the temp slowly to 102 F. The heat needs to be increased slowly by 2-3 degrees every 5 minutes. I have a 12 inch temp probe stock in the pot to monitor the temp. Having a Sous-Vide made this very easy. I actually set the machine at 115 degrees initially and as the temp rose I backed it off with adding ice to the container. As the curds begin to cook the curds will begin to dry and release more whey. If this is done to quickly the curds skin will become to firm and the inside of the curds will not dry properly. If you rush this you will eventually ruin your cheese. Wet curds going into molds and problems aging will occur. One you reach the magic temp of 102 F you need to keep the curds moving in the whey and separated. The bacteria and acidity are still developing and the curds are still drying out. This will take anther 30-45 minutes depending on dryness of cheese desired. 

In this pictures I am squeezing the curds to see if enough moisture has been released. Using a little thumb pressure I wanted to see if the curds would separate after a little squeeze.

Time to drain the whey!!! Here I am ladling the whey into a different stock and will make Ricotta from it called Ricottone. 

Cheesecloth set up and ready for the curds. Will drain for 30 minutes. 

It took 4 bottles of Dragonstooth beer to submerge these beautiful curds. The curds will soak in beer for 45 minutes. 

Curds drained and ready for salt!!!! I lightly tossed in 3 Tbl. of cheese salt 1 Tbl. at a time. 

After the curds are drained and salted I prepared the mold and butter muslin. I sanitized the mold with a thorough cleaning and a quick dip in 200 degree water. I soaked the butter muslin in the water for a few minutes. I than lined the mold with the muslin and packed the curds in tightly and applied with weight listed below. 

A beautiful picture of my sturdy cheese press. 

Pressing the whey away from the curds.....yea I could not resist the play on words. If you are curious about the diameter to weight ratio I used to determine pressing weight for the cheese look go to the very bottom of the post.  

Coming together quite nicely.

The initial pressing uses a light weight.

You want a thin stream of whey to release and then slowly increasing weight to release even more whey. The cheese is removed from the press unwrapped, turned, re-wrapped and put back in the press at the below intervals. In the end you want even consolidation of the curds and a smooth top. 

The cheese is coming together and the cracks are diminishing. 

All done with the pressing. Now the cheese needs to dry for a few days before I either wax it, bandage it, wax cream. I could also let a natural mold form on it and control it with a brush. 

This is where I made a mistake due to poor conditions. I should have let it dry in better conditions I.E 52 degrees with about RH of 85%. Since my house was a little warmer and RH was to low my cheese developed cracks. The lines in the cheese are beautiful which are caused by the beer infused curds but the other lines were due to cracks. 
I decided to apply cream wax to the cheese for aging. 
The coating has a protective membrane against mold penetration and potential mite damage on hard cheeses and will help with the cracks. The coating also has a mold inhibitor which helps prevent mold from growing on the cheese.

All done.....needs to dry.

My Dragonstooth Cheese will age for the next couple of months.  The cheese weighs about 5 1/2 lbs.


I need to invest in a proper curing chamber for cheeses and meats. 

What can I say it tasted like Beer Cheese. I could taste the Dragonstooth Beer distinctly. Over all, for a first time cheese it came out great. Next time I think I will soak the curds in beer only for 30 minutes. 

Original Recipe

4.5 inch Mold  

60 minutes at PSI 0.6291
Which equates to 10 lbs. of pressing power

3 hours at PSI 1.5727 
Which equates to 25 lbs. of pressing power

18 hours at PSI 3.1454
Which equates to 50 lbs. of pressing power

Using the same PSI from above recipe but using different mold sizes equates to different numbers. 

New Recipe 7.875 inch mold

Sturdy Press "B" Pin option (pin option "A" is in parentheses )

60 minutes at PSI 0.6291 
Which equates to 30.626 lbs. of pressing power
Hanging off the Lever 2.8696 lbs. (5.4052 lbs.)
or 5.51 cups of water. (10.3821 Cups)

3 hours at PSI 1.5727 
Which equates to 76.0773 lbs of pressing power
Hanging off of Lever 7.9736 lbs (14.5925 lbs.)
or 15.2110 cup of water (28.0288 Cups)

18 hours at PSI 3.1454
which equates to 152.1545 lbs of pressing power
Hanging off of Lever 16.4806 lbs (29.905 lbs.)
or 31.4482 cups. (57.4407 Cups)