Additional Ingredients

Ash (Activated Charcoal)

Q. What cheeses are good to coat in ash? How about Colby?

A. Whenever you consider any aspect of the cheese process, you need to know what the functional reason for it is. Sometimes it may be just cosmetic and other times there is an actual reason for doing it.

Quite commonly, ash or activated charcoal is used on the surface of a cheese to protect the surface as well as to reduce the acidity of the surface in preparation for any flora that is soon to follow. Usually, it is used for mold ripened cheeses like Camembert.

It would be wasted on a cheese like Colby or any similar cheese.

Q. I am looking for a true black grape ash. You do not sell this, but can you get it, or can you let me know where I might be able to?

A. This ash is produced by burning the trimmings from vines, it is grey and not black. It does not have the neutralizing effect of the activated charcoal we sell.

We have no sources for it but you can easily make it yourself if you know someone with grape vines.They should be burned in the open air.

Tartaric Acid

Q. Since cream of tartar is derived from tartaric acid, can I use it as a substitute for tartaric acid?  If yes, what amount of cream of tartar equals tartaric acid?

A. Using cream of tarter is not going to be as effective as using tartaric acid because it is a neutralized version. 


Q. Can lipase be added to any cheese to give it a stronger flavor - Baby Swiss, Derby, Farmhouse Cheddar, Tomme?

A. As a chef blends ingredients to achieve specific flavors and textures, cheese makers should also consider the same approach.

Lipase is used fairly selectively in cheese making. Its primary use is in the traditional cheeses that come from southern Italy. Effectively, lipase produces that strong, fiery flavor in cheeses like aged Provolone and some of the Romanos.

Lipase works on the butterfat, breaking it down into characteristic flavors. When deciding to use it, think if this flavor is appropriate in the cheese you're making or not.

Most cheese makers feel that lipase flavors do not blend well with the styles mentioned above. Their strong points in these types of cheese are the natural flavors of milk, adding lipase tends to mask those natural flavors.

Q. If I put lipase powder in a farmhouse cheese, would it make it sharper so I would not have to age it so long?

A. The sharpness from a cheddar is mostly from protein breakdown (protease), whereas, lipase is an enzyme that focuses on changing the lipids or fat in cheese.

So, no, lipase in cheddar will not give you an early aging cheese. This is not to say that there is no natural lipase working in cheddar, but the dominance is the protease activity.


Q. Can I add salt while heating my milk at the beginning of the cheese making process?

A. Salt, that early in the process, will reduce the activity of the cultures in the milk.  Salt is essentially used to slow or stop the bacteria later in the process.

Q. I just purchased two of your cheese making kits today for the first time, Basic Cheese Making Kit and Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit. I bought them primarily so that I might have some control over the quantity of salt added, as my husband has recently been put on a very restricted sodium diet and store-bought cheese is loaded. Swiss is the lowest, but that becomes a little tiresome after a while.

Most of the recipes seem to include salt, including Colby, which says to add 2 tablespoons, and the end result is 2 pounds of cheese. That amounts to 375 mg of sodium for a 1-ounce portion, which is even higher than a lot of the store bought ones! Is there a way I can reduce the salt without compromising the end results? 

A. Unfortunately, salt is a functional aspect of cheese making. Its role is to help the cultures work at a point in the process. This is required to limit the acid production of the culture. Normally, the amount given is 2% of the cheese weight but 25% of that or more runs off as brine.

That said, you can make mozzarella and any of the soft cheeses without salt. If there is no culture and no aging involved, you can leave it out (however, the taste will be very bland). Many folks use herbs as a substitute.

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