Crumbly Acidic Center
Q. Recently, I made a Farmhouse Cheddar according to the directions in Home Cheese Making. When I cut it open after one month of aging, I found the texture closest to the outside of the cylinder to be relatively smooth and unified while the cheese closet to the center was crumbly. Why the difference and what should I have done differently to have a more consolidated texture throughout?
A. This is common when the initial pressing weight is too high, especially when the curd goes into the press with too much moisture. The surface curds become compressed and thus block the interior from releasing moisture. That locked in moisture can then begin fermenting again and cause it to become more acid, which is the crumbly/granular character you see.
Always begin the press with lighter pressing and then gradually increase the weight.
Curds Crumbling After Pressing
Q. I have been making cheese for about a year, using raw milk from my own goats. About 2 weeks ago I made Gruyere. When I took the cheese from the form for the first flip, small pieces of curd broke away from the consolidated mass. I re-wrapped the cheese and finished the process. At the second flip, a few more pieces came away. Now, I am aging it and I have mold growing in the divots around the curds.
A. Gruyere is one of those cheeses that should come together very easily and, within an hour, be pretty compact with a smooth, tight surface. Your description sounds like your curds were too dry going into the form. The openings can become a problem when trying to keep mold away.
If this happens again try dipping your pressed cheese into hot water for a few seconds, then press once more in an attempt to close up the surface gaps.
Using a Spring Loaded Press
Q. I have a question about using a cheese press. When a recipe calls for a certain pressure to be applied to the cheese, let's say 35 lbs for 6 hours, and you see a drop in the pressure over time as the curds compress, should you adjust back to 35 lbs as needed?
A. Yes, absolutely. As the curds become consolidated, the tension of the springs becomes less. The tension should be readjusted every 15-30 minutes for the first hour or two.
Cheese Cloth Embedding Into the Rind
Q. My Gouda seems to always stick quite badly to the cheesecloth after the final pressing. This rarely happens with any other cheese I make (Cheddar, Colby, Parmesan, etc.). Although I am trying to be as sanitary as possible, it keeps sticking.
A. This may be a result of not developing enough acid before molding the curds, or the curds being too moist when going into the cheese mold. Try soaking the cheesecloth in a salt brine before molding the curds. The salt will help slow down the bacterial activity near the cloth and prevent it from being "pulled into" the curd.