Adding Herbs, Spices and More
Q. I have access to fresh black Oregon Truffles and I want to make some truffled cheeses, but I can't seem to find any information on how. I tried to add some into a batch of brie last week, but it's not working out like I'd hoped.
A. We usually recommend adding dehydrated or heat treated items to cheese. It's a bit risky to add fresh things from the garden, field, or woods because of the dangers of toxin-producing biologicals being placed in an anaerobic environment where competition is more restricted. The high moisture of the brie would 'up' the dangers here.
That said, you can add the truffles after the curds have been drained and are ready for molding.
Q. A friend of mine found some wild morel mushrooms and I decided to put them in my gouda. I boiled them for 15 minutes thinking that would kill most everything. It’s now time to try the cheese and it occurred to me that there might be a problem with botulism. I looked it up and found that, while boiling kills the toxin, it doesn’t kill the spoors. Acids with a pH of 4.6 or below will kill the spoors, which is why water bath canning is safe for fruits and other things that have a low pH.
My question is this – will gouda reach a pH of 4.6 after aging at 50° F for 2 months? I followed the pH of the whey until it reached 4.8 but don’t know if that reflects the pH of the curd. I know there’s some difference.
A. No, Gouda will not reach that level of acid. In fact, it will age out sweeter than most cheese.
With the dangers of botulinum growing in an anaerobic environment like cheese, we also discourage the addition of fresh, high moisture ingredients in aged cheese.
Q. I am interested in a method for adding mushrooms to ripened cheeses. I have chanterelles, black trumpets and porcini here in Maine. What are recommended preparation steps for the addition of mushrooms?
A. The big problem with adding any fresh ingredients to a cheese is that the interior of that cheese is going to be anaerobic. This means that if you carry something into a cheese using a high moisture addition like mushrooms, there's a good chance you may be carrying some of the bad bacteria that do well in this anaerobic environment. That makes it an unsafe product health-wise because the bad bacteria will have little competition.
You could try drying the mushrooms out but that usually takes away much of their fresh character.
Forgot to Drain Infusion
Q. I made Garlic Gouda this weekend. I put dried, ground garlic and some paprika into 1 cup of water and brought it almost to the point of boiling, then let it set. I had planned to use it as an infusion, but I inadvertently did not strain the garlic pepper mix when adding to the milk. Now, the cheese is drying and I wonder if it would be better to wax it, or if I can safely age it with olive oil and a paprika rub to improve the flavor. What would you recommend?
A. There is nothing wrong with adding solids instead of an infusion. However, instead of adding them to the milk, we recommend adding them to the curds at the time of molding. If the cheese has a nice tight rind with no openings, the oil rub would be just fine. It's only when the solids are sticking out of the rind that it is better to wax the cheese.
Adding Fresh Herbs to Pressed Cheese
Q. I'm wanting to make your Sage Derby cheese, are there any botulism concerns with using fresh herbs/spinach inside the cheese?
A. Properly preparing your ingredients will be very important. You definitely want to choose very fresh healthy ingredients and wash well, then blanch before using.
Q. Can I make cheese with milk, like a manchego or gouda, and add a can of coconut milk? Will the rennet still work? I just want to try a coconut flavor in the cheese.
A. Coconut milk could be problematic in forming a good curd. Instead, think about infusing the milk with shredded coconut, preferably fresh but dry could be used.
Warm the milk to your target temperature, add the coconut and stir for about 15 minutes. Then, add your culture and ripen for the required time. Stir about every 10 minutes to keep the coconut suspended, then, strain the coconut out.
Your coconut flavored milk should now have the bacteria working and a nice coconut flavor - ready for adding the rennet.
Making Additions to Soft Ripened Cheese
Q. I have made Brie several times with good, consistent results. Can I add dry herbs to brie during the curd stage? I also recently made a wine infused hard cheese, can I add wine to the curds when making brie?
A. You can add dried herbs, peppercorns, etc. But, a wine infusion added to the curds is not possible because the curds are not cooked.