Adding Salt to Milk

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.

Ricotta Salata Too Salty

Q. I tasted my Ricotta Salata at the 30-day interval and it seems a bit overwhelming in saltiness. At this stage, it's crusting over with salt on the outside and pretty much tastes like a "block of salt."

I know that even its name declares it as a "salted" cheese, but following one of the only instructions I could find written on this variety, I re-salted it and re-turned it for the first seven (7) consecutive days following molding/pressing, and stored it in my special cheese fridge all-the-while.

Do you think that was overkill on the salting (7 days worth)? Should it have been salted only once at the un-molding stage and then just turned and aged for 30 days as is?

A. This could be a couple of things. Your salting sounds a bit overzealous. We usually recommend salting every other day for 7-10 days. (For a half to three quarter pound cheese, maybe 1/2 tsp each time.)

Also, the ricotta going into the form should have good moisture. Otherwise, the salt does not form a brine and move into the cheese. Your salt crust may be an indication of this. If it seems too dry, perhaps you are cooking too long. A good Salata will never taste heavily salted.

Low Salt Diet

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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