As an augmentation to the article I wrote for the summer culture the word on cheese magazine http://culturecheesemag.com/diy/beautiful-homemade-burrata , here are step by step photos of how to make burrata sachets, dumplings, packets or whatever you want to call them!
As a person who tends to want to follow rules, it is sad to be reminded that a good portion of food production regulations have little to do with actual food safety, rather they are the result of a ponderous, rigid system that steam rolls forward, sometimes based more on the ease of generalizing rather than the complexity of reality. The FDA has never liked wood shelves, especially when you sit food, in this case naturally rinded cheese, directly on its porous surface. Wood does not fit their Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) model for a cleanable surface. While wood aging shelves have technically never been okay with the FDA, they have until now been mostly ignored and the decision to allow them been left to individual states .In many” big cheese” states, the regulators defer to the scientific knowledge of the leading expert within each state. For example, in both Oregon and Wisconsin (where at least 30 million pounds of cheese is aged on wood each year) the departments of agriculture have an official stance of “no wood shelves”. But in both states if a cheesemaker gets a thumbs up from the academic expert regarding their maintenance protocol for the shelves, then they have been allowed.
Isn’t that sensible? Did you hear me mention the words “scientific knowledge”? Let’s review what is well researched and known about wood shelves. (I’ll give you some references at the end of this post). Guess how many outbreaks of food borne illness they have been implicated in since the dawn of cheesemaking? Zero. This doesn’t mean that pathogens can’t exist on a wood shelf. If a cheese is contaminated and the wood poorly cared for, it will pass it to the shelf, no matter what material it is made from. Contamination of any aging shelf can happen when poor practices occur at any stage of cheese production, but it is not any more likely when wood is used. Bottom line.
Pros and Cons
So why do cheesemakers and affinuers (the folks that age cheese) love wood shelving? Tradition? Romance? Practicality? In the days before the invention of plastic, that ubiquitous, malleable material that we now take so for granted, wood was the logical and singular option. But fortunately it was also perfect. Like naturally aging cheese, wood “breathes”, it holds moisture without being wet, pulling it both out of the cheese, but also helping keep the aging space at a steady level of humidity. Not unlike the natural stone walls and bricks of the pre-modern aging space. Wood shelves used in aging room also take on the same family of fantastically helpful microflora – yeasts, molds, and especially bacteria – that help create distinctive, out-of-this-world cheeses. The usefulness of these microbes has not only to do with flavor, but also with the final safety of the cheese.
Given what I have just told you about how awesome wood shelving is, why isn’t everyone using it? (At least 60% of American Cheese Society cheesemaker members do) Or at least trying to use it? First it is, not surprisingly, highly discouraged thanks to the stance of our federal friends. Second, the knowledge of how to properly care for wood is tucked away in the minds of a few and only a smattering of books and papers. Third many make only fresh cheeses where aging is not used. And finally, it is more work. More work is not what most cheesemakers need or can even contemplate. Let me tell you about our experience with wood shelves in our own aging room.
Wood Shelves at Pholia Farm
A few years ago we got permission from our inspectors to use wood shelves as long as we consulted with Dr. Lisbeth Goddik,Oregon State University’s Dairy Extension Specialist – a darned amazing woman. She suggested routine cleaning of the shelves with mild soap and warm water, then after rinsing with plain water either wiping the boards down with vinegar or a lactic acid bacteria wash. We did both. We marked which side of each shelf was treated with vinegar and which with bacteria. After aging the cheeses for many months, and before selling them, we swabbed the shelves and sent samples of the cheese to Agrimark lab. All results, for cheese and shelves, whether vinegar or lactic acid bacteria washed, were free from pathogens. So why did we stop? Ironically enough it was another aging room reality that is on the FDA’s hit list (not recent hits list…) cheese mites. I won’t go into too much detail about these little buggers (see one of my most popular posts for all of the itchy details), but what is pertinent is that the dark underside of the cheese sitting on the board was very desirable real estate for the mites. This required more frequent cheese rind labor, something that we were not prepared to do at that time. But I am now.
So Why the Ruling?
Consider for a moment that the FDA is tasked with an enormous responsibility. As that responsibility grows and food systems expand it becomes more expeditious to simplify. This means generalized rules that apply to everyone – versus thoughtful, logical exceptions. Think about it, before a couple of decades ago, you would be hard pressed (like one of those fabulous wood aged European Comtes) to find any US made cheese that was aged in a cellar type situation with a natural rind. Consequently the paradigm for aging became a squeaky clean walk in cooler. The regulations that developed reflected that reality. With the looming burden of the Food Safety Modernization Act, it’s not surprising that they are now seeking to streamline and enforce existing regulations, rather than allow states to take the responsibility of allowing exceptions.
As we move forward as cheesemakers, I think we need to nurture a new paradigm, one in which the aging room is not treated as a processing room, but as a separate type of space in which a different set of GMP’s apply. When I was at a cheese science conference in England, it was repeatedly said that “The dairy/cheese plant is NOT A HOSPITAL”, nothing could be more true in a room in which you are counting on microbes to flourish.
What Can We Do?
I am a member of the American Cheese Society’s Regulatory and Academic committee. This morning (June 10th) we finalized the press release and position of the largest body of cheese professionals in the United States. (See the document at: http://www.cheesesociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/ACS-Statement-on-Safety-of-Aging-Cheese-on-Wood.pdf )
So support ACS (join if you are not a member), contact your state representatives, let the FDA know how you feel, and most importantly keep buying and making great cheese! Now, I am going to go put those beautiful Pacific maple shelves back in the aging room. Watch out cheese mites, I’m watching you!
Guillier, L., Stahl, V., Hezard, B., Notz, E., & Briandet, R. (2008). Modelling the competitive growth between Listeria monocytogenes and biofilm microflora of smear cheese wooden shelves. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 128, 51–57.
Mariani, C., Briandet, R., Chamba, J.-F., Notz, E., Carnet-Pantiez, A., Eyoug, R. N., & Oulahal, N. (2007). Biofilm ecology of wooden shelves used in ripening the French raw milk smear cheese Reblochon de Savoie. Journal of Dairy Science, 90, 1653–1661.
Mariani, C., Oulahal, N., Chamba, J.-F., Dubois-Brissonnet, F., Notz, E., & Briandet, R. (2011). Inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes by resident biofilms present on wooden shelves used for cheese ripening. Food Control.
Nese, AK, Cliver, Dean, Kaspar, C. (1994). Cutting Boards of Plastic and Wood Contaminated Experimentally with Bacteria. Journal of Food Protection, 57(1), 16–22.
Oulahal, N., Adt, I., Mariani, C., Carnet-Pantiez, A., Notz, E., & Degraeve, P. (2009). Examination of wooden shelves used in the ripening of a raw milk smear cheese by FTIR spectroscopy. Food Control.
Schvartzman, M. S., Maffre, A., Tenenhaus-Aziza, F., Sanaa, M., Butler, F., & Jordan, K. (2011). Modelling the fate of Listeria monocytogenes during manufacture and ripening of smeared cheese made with pasteurised or raw milk. International Journal of Food Microbiology, 145 Suppl 1, S31–S38.
Zangerl, P., Matlschweiger, C., Dillinger, K., & Eliskases-Lechner, F. (2010). Survival of Listeria monocytogenes after cleaning and sanitation of wooden shelves used for cheese ripening. European Journal of Wood and Wood Products, 68(4), 415–419.
Lasagna Cheese – All in one pot recipe for Mozzarella and Ricotta
While writing an article for Culture magazine on how to make Burrata, I realized how easy it is to make both quick mozzarella and ricotta at the same time, literally within one hour. An email from a reader mentioned that it was her goal to make all of the ingredients for lasagna, so I put this recipe together for anyone out there who has wanted to do the same. This works great for traditional lasagna as well as spaghetti squash, eggplant, or gluten free noodles.I am giving directions using store bought milk, simply to address the availability for most, but any good quality milk will work. We, of course, use our goat milk. Enjoy!
Ingredients and Equipment
1 gallon whole, pasteurized milk
1 ½ teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/8 cup cold, non-chlorinated water
1/8 teaspoon double strength rennet mixed into 1/8 cup cold, non-chlorinated water
1 Tablespoon salt
Heavy bottomed stainless steel pot
Large pot for water bath
Large skimmer ladle
Cheesecloth or butter muslin
Large bowl filled with 2 quarts cold water and 1 teaspoon salt
Make the Mozzarella
- Place smaller pot inside of larger and pour 3 quarts of the milk into the smaller pot. Set remaining quart aside for ricotta. Add water to larger pot so that it covers the sides of the smaller pot, but doesn’t make it float.
- Stir in citric acid solution.
- Slowly heat the milk to 95F and turn off heat or remove from burner, leaving in water bath whose temperature is 100-105F
- Stir in rennet solution using an up and down motion, not swirling, and let set without movement for 5 minutes. At the end of this time the milk should have coagulated into a heavy custard.
- Cut the coagulated milk into 3/8 inch columns and a few horizontal cuts at about the same interval. Let set for 5 minutes.
- Heat and agitate or stir the curds, depending upon their firmness (see sidebar), over 5 minutes to 105-108F.
- Line colander with cloth and ladle curds into cloth, cover and let drain, flipping curd mass as a whole inside cloth every 5 minutes.
Make the Ricotta
- Place the pot containing the whey on direct heat and bring temperature up to 175F, stirring. Remove any bits of curd remaining and add to colander.
- When 175F is reached, stir in 1 quart of milk. It should immediately coagulate into ricotta curds. Stir for a minute then use the small sieve to remove the curds from the hot whey. Reserve whey.
- Drain ricotta for about 3 minutes then place in bowl.
Stretch the Mozzarella
- Stir two tablespoons of salt into whey and verify temperature is still 175F
- Cut the mozzarella curd mass into 8 pieces. Drop into the hot whey for several moments. Check a chunk for stretch. When curd is pliable, place the entire mass on aplate and gently work the curd by folding it in toward the center in a circular pattern. Reheat as needed to maintain a pliable texture. Repeat the process about 2 times, just until the curd becomes shiny, then form a ball or loaf.
- Place in the cold water bowl just long enough to firm it up, then serve or store for later. Use within a day or so for the best texture.
Mozzarella Tips and Tricks
Traditional, cultured mozzarella making is an all-day process. Quick “30 Minute” recipes have the advantage in near instant gratification – but at a price. Fast recipes for making stretched curd cheese rely upon a lucky combination of added acid, great milk, and deft craftsmanship. While mastering these types of recipes be patient with yourself and with the milk! Here are some tips for success:
- Measure the citric acid very carefully. If you use too little or too much the curd will not stretch. Often the amount must be adjusted to suit the milk for the next batch.
- Use the freshest milk possible. Do not use ultra pasteurized milk. Most milk available from the grocery store will make quite decent quick mozzarella, but it must be handled very gently. Often it cannot be stirred during step 6, but must instead be agitated by gently swirling or shaking the pot. Farm fresh milk will usually create a much more resilient and malleable curd.
- Think of working pasta filata cheese curd as if it is a delicate pastry, rather than bread dough. Too much kneading and working will result in a tough, rubber like texture.
- Don’t leave the curd in the hot whey any longer than necessary or you will overheat the fat and lose it from the curd.
- For more tips on working with quick mozzarella visit New England Cheesemaking Supply Companies helpful page: http://www.cheesemaking.com/store/pg/242-FAQ-Mozzarella.html
Should Small Producers do their own Environmental Testing?
Recent regulations and high profile cases have made testing for listeria through the use of a certified laboratory somewhat discouraging. A positive test is no longer necessarily just between you and the lab. It is likely to be reported to the FDA. In some cases they must be notified. So what is a well-intentioned cheesemaker to do? For years we, farmstead and artisan cheesemakers and small dairy processors, have been told to NEVER test for pathogens on-site. Too dangerous, too unpredictable, too little experience on the cheesemaker’s part.
After reading an article by respected dairy science educator Dr. Catherine Donnelly about environmental Listeria testing (see link below) ,it dawned on my – if we do test for Listeria ourselves, AND we do find it, then we have way bigger concerns than not being certified lab technicians working in a certified facility. We are, in fact, growing it in our cheesemaking facilities. In addition, if good manufacturing practices are the norm, then you are unlikely to have any type of listeria in your plant, at least not for long, so testing will hopefully simply confirm negative results. So why not learn the lowest risk, most accurate, least expensive way to test for this pathogen ourselves and become more aware, more proactive, and better producers of safe food? After all, if we can be trusted to produce safe food that goes directly into the mouths of people, why can we not be trusted to learn safe practices for self-testing?
Why are Listeria of such Concern?
Before I talk more about do-it-yourself tests, let’s talk about why Listeria is so high on the radar when it comes to food borne illness. (At the end of this article there is a link to the FDA’s booklet on food borne pathogens) The Listeria family are gram positive, facultative bacteria (meaning they can adapt to anaerobic conditions, even though their primary life process is aerobic). They are readily found in damp soil and moist environments. Fortunately, all but one species of Listeria are harmless to humans. L. monocytogenes, existing in several identifiable strains (serotypes,) is one of the most deadly causes of food borne illness. Even though the rate of listeriosis (a listeria infection) is low in comparison to other sicknesses caused by contaminated food, the death rate is the highest.
Once Listeria takes up residence in a food production facility, it is particularly difficult to get rid of – forming protective biofilms that are resistant to many common sanitizers, being salt tolerant (allowing their survival in brine and later growth on the surface of cheeses), able to grow at temperatures below freezing, and showing resistance to commonly used sanitizers through the activation of a pumping system (bacterial efflux pump) which can remove injurious substances from the bacterial cell. Recent cases of detection on non-food contact surfaces with recurrence later in product have increased the determination of enforcement officials to take action before product becomes tainted. Understandable.
Good manufacturing practices – part of a complete food risk reduction program – are designed to prevent the introduction of pathogens in the plant, remove them from the environment and surfaces when contact is unavoidable, and remove the likelihood of pathogen survival in products where their presence is a possibility – such as in raw milk cheese . Listeria, along with other pathogens, can be found in the dairy and in raw milk, so cheesemakers should assume that listeria will enter the plant and possibly the process – at some point. By assuming its presence and then taking steps to assure its destruction in product through process controls such as goal pH, final moisture content, proper aging, and of course, pasteurization. Post production contamination must also be addressed. Pathogens not regularly removed from the plant have the opportunity to form resistant biofilms and spread throughout the plant during cleaning practices which might offer them the opportunity to atomize and become airborne.
Listeria Testing Options
Let’s go over the most common ways that L. monocytogenes (the one we need to worry about) and other Listeria family members can be detected. At all times while reading this, please remember that I am not a Ph. D, not a lab technician, not a medical doctor, and not advising you. I am sharing what we are doing and how it has affected our process, decision making, and knowledge.
- PCR assay – done only in specialized laboratories. Detects the presence of any portion of a bacterial cell (DNA). Does not differentiate between viable (cells that can grow, infect, and spread) or dead.
- Enrichment – A sample is enriched to encourage the growth of the bacteria being sought. Should only be done in a certified laboratory where proper safety techniques can be employed, including disposal. Can be L. monocytogenes specific. About 25-40.00 per test not including shipping.
- Non-enrichment plating – A sample is cultured on a plate without enrichment. Disposable plates, such as 3M Petrifilm, are commonly used. According to some (see links below) can be safely done when proper procedure is followed, by the producer. Qualitative and quantitative, non-specific for L. monocytogenes, but positive plates can be sent to a certified lab for confirmation. About 7.50 per test (including peptone water and Quick-Swab)
- Self-contained swabs – a sample is cultured in a self-contained swab. Results are positive or negative (qualitative). High rate of false positives in cheese environments, see link at end of the article. About 5.00 per test.
How we did our Tests – and what we found
I have included several links below for instructions, including a video, on properly using and interpreting the 3M environmental Listeria test plates. Since my goal is not to teach this technique, but to share our experience, I would encourage you to review these instructions and also seek the advice of a dairy science and laboratory specialist before you proceed.
In my first tests I used only the inexpensive and simple swabs by InSite. Boy did I want these to work, they were so easy to use! I took six samples as directed and incubated for the initial time. After the first phase of incubation, two were presumptive positives. After the 2nd phase, four were presumptive positives. (see photo above) Needless to say, I was extremely disturbed, until I read the research (link below) indicating that false positives in a cheese environment are more common (up to 100% ) than not. The swab solution evidently also changes color in the presence of other bacteria common to cheese plants.
Next I sampled three surfaces with both the InSite swabs and 3M Quick swabs (to be plated after several other steps onto the 3M Petrifilm plates). I followed all instructions carefully, using aseptic techniques (thank you nursing degree for help learning those protocols) and incubated each in different incubators (as they both require slightly different temperatures and times). The samples, from a wall behind the vat, under the vat pedestal (where it is moist all the time and is sometimes not cleaned as well as the floor) , and the creamery’s main floor drain. Of these, all three Petrifilm plates were negative and one InSite swab was presumptive positive.
Next I did a more extensive sampling in the creamery using only the Petrifilm environmental plates. I sampled a crack in the concrete floor where there is also a low spot that is wet longer than the rest of the floor, the base of the wall nearby, the wall behind and hidden by the sink, and a drain tube in a compressor in the aging room. All were negative.
Our plan is to continue with routine testing, picking new locations each time. By doing this I feel as though our cleaning and sanitizing program is more properly monitored. I also enjoy being “in the know” and on top of things! You can bet if we do have any positive results that I will let you know if follow up tests show it eliminated – and what worked. Our current regimen includes the routine use of gaseous ozone, and floor flooding with peracetic acid sanitizer. We also are extremely restrictive in regards to traffic in and out of the make room.
Characteristics of a small, farmstead or artisan laboratory:
- Isolated from food production or dining areas, including sharing air handling or ventilation systems.
- Protected from untrained personnel, visitors, children, or trained but otherwise vulnerable personnel.
- Cleanable surfaces and equipment.
- A federal, state, and locally acceptable way to sterilize plates before disposal.
- Proper safety gear and apparel (not shared with food production facilities)
- Proper storage capability of new plates and swabs.
- Up to date instructions for the use of testing materials.
- Proper method for sterilization of plates after use, small autoclave can be purchased from Nelson Jameson (see below). Some sources suggest a soak in high concentration of chlorine or 190 proof alcohol.
Controlling Listeria – Environmental Plate Technology Hunts Down All Species, Catherine W. Donnelly, PhD http://www.foodquality.com/details/article/834047/Controlling_Listeria.html?tzcheck=1&tzcheck=1
FDA’s “Bad Bugs” booklet: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/UCM297627.pdf
3M YouTube video of how to use Listeria Petrifilm plates: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-x1PYFK19w
3M Guide and Warnings for proper use of Listeria petrifilm plates http://multimedia.3m.com/mws/mediawebserver?mwsId=SSSSSufSevTsZxtUOY_15YtZevUqevTSevTSevTSeSSSSSS–&fn=34870664611_PEL.pdf
Performance of two commercial rapid methods for sampling and detection of Listeria in small-scale cheese producing and salmon processing environments. (Abstract only) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22960690
Nelson Jameson for all the supplies needed: http://nelsonjameson.com/splash-page.html
Think about it, 75-80% of the milk for about half the labor, half the chemicals, half the grain, AND evenings (or mornings) with a few extra hours of “free” time. Once a day milking (OAD), as opposed to the more conventional twice a day (TAD), is a popular option in several other countries as a way to improve working conditions for farmers. When milk stays in
the udder for 24 hours, though, there are some management concerns that must be addressed. Let’s take a look at why OAD might be a good choice, some of the drawbacks, and some of the surprising benefits. First, let me tell you what drove us (or led us) to give it a try.
I had written about the option of milking OAD in my first book, The Farmstead Creamery Advisor. I knew of two commercial dairy farmers, one with cows and one with goats, that only milked one time a day. The former as a way to make up for the lack of extra labor to do these tasks while the farmer was at market during evening milking hours, and the latter as a way to ensure time spent with young children and family. I read about this option in a French dairying document and while in Argentina, learned that many farmers there were intentionally selecting for and breeding cows that did well being milked OAD. I was tempted to give it a try, but as our herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats has been on official milk testing, through Dairy Herd Improvement, for the last 10 or more years, I was very nervous about potentially ruining their records. It also felt very “naughty”.
Then our youngest daughter Amelia, my cohort in goats and barn slave, moved out. Reality check! I was trying to finish writing a third book (about small dairying) and found myself doing far more chores than ever before. Since I am always preaching to cheesemakers and dairy folks about making choices that sustain your both your livelihood and lifestyle (translated not wanting to run away from the farm or divorce your spouse), I realized we needed to give it a try.
What do the Experts Say?
SCC and Mastitis: The first question that people usually ask, is doesn’t once a day milking lead to mastitis? The data says that most animals experience an initial increase in somatic cell count (SCC) but it does not correlate with an increase in mastitis causing organisms within the udder. The initial increase is followed by a decrease in SCC, but usually it stays more elevated than on twice a day milking. (Our experience has had different results). For cows that might already have a low grade udder infection (subclinical mastitis) there is an increased likelihood that once a day milking will lead to acute mastitis. This makes sense, since milking more frequently is one of the best treatments for an udder infection – an empty udder helps “starve out” the invading microbes. Increased SCC alone, does not indicate mastitis. So if you are planning on trying this technique, you should closely monitor SCC’s before switching and after.
Volume and Components: The research (you can read two articles whose links I have provided below) indicates that production dropped by an average of 15-20% depending upon the animal breed, age, and stage of lactation. In most of the studies, cows held their production levels best, when milked TAD until the peak of their lactation was reached. (For most goats this is at 100 or so days, but for Nigerian Dwarf goats, more like 60 days into the lactation) Interestingly, udder anatomy also played a role. Cows (and in our herd so far goats too) with a larger cistern, that’s the animals own milk bulk tank, were able to maintain good production levels – especially when compared to those with udders made up of more productive tissue and a smaller cistern. In the data, Holsteins typically had more productive tissue and smaller cisterns than cows such as Jerseys. But no matter what the breed, selective breeding for this characteristic can accomplish the desired udder type. See the photos for an example of one of our two LaMancha does with large cistern capacity. (Indeed, her milk production has increased on 1x a day milking).
In the studies, milk components – butterfat and protein – increased, potentially meaning an increase in cheese yield for cheesemakers. But enzymes also increase, which could lead to shorter shelf life for fluid milk and coagulation or aging
changes for cheese. I could not find information that delved into this aspect. The cheesemakers I know that milk OAD do not seem to have any issues.
Feed Usage and Body Condition: Grain consumption, if fed at milking time only, can decrease by half and dry matter intake (hay and forage) decreases as well. In general, cows body condition scores improved and a side effect of lower rates of hoof and leg problems resulted.
The first night, boy did I feel like I was slacking off. I also expected the goats to be a little peeved, but no one seemed to have any issues. For the next two – three mornings, the two higher producers had tight udders and one dripped a little milk. After a few days, their production adjusted itself to simply just a full udder. Total milk production for a 24 hour period fell from 12 gallons to 7.5 and then after 6 weeks, came back up to 8. As of this writing, we are about 10 weeks into the experiment, and production varies between 7.25 – 8 gallons a day. This is amazing to me, as by now many of the does should be dropping a bit and we had four does that had been in milk for about 18 months, and I expected these to start drying off, but they are holding pretty well. Nigerian Dwarfs tend to peak much earlier than standard breed does, so this factors into our lower numbers as well. I am paying close attention to the does that are holding their volume the best.
After four weeks we had our first DHI milk test. The results reflected what the research shows, components go up as do somatic cell counts (SCC). Aha! you say, mastitis will be a problem. Our increase – to a herd average of 282,000 for the Nigerians and 500,000 for the LaMancha and Lagerians (our Lamancha Nigerian crosses) was still well within our year round normal. Components went way up as well, almost a full 2% for fat and 1% for protein. During this time our cheese yield increased from our normal (for our hard, aged cheeses) of about 14% (on our hard cheeses) to 16%. (If making it just with Nigerian milk, the yield was 17.5%). So the usual 20 gallons of milk produced 3 or 4 more pounds of cheese (from 23.8 pounds to 27.2 pounds). If we had been milking twice a day, there would have been about 25 gallons of milk which would have yielded (at 14% yield) 30 pounds of cheese. So only about 3 pounds less cheese for a lot less work, feed, and chemicals.
After eight weeks we had our 2nd DHI test. Interestingly, components and SCC all went back to normal, but total herd production held, thanks to the high producing LaMancha and crosses. During test week, we were having a heat wave of all the days over 100F, so I am hoping that was what affected components, as they just don’t spend as much time browsing when the weather is so severe.
Here are the test day herd numbers comparing one year to the next:
June 2012, Twice a day milking: Nigerians: Milk = 2.8 pounds, Fat = 5.92%, Protein = 4.20 %, SCC = 134,000
July 2012, Twice a day milking: Nigerians: milk=2.6 pounds, fat = 6.2%, protein 4.00%, SCC 76,000
June 2013, Once a day milking, Nigerians: Milk = 2.1 pounds, Fat = 7.4%, Protein = 4.26 %, SCC = 282,000
July 2013, Once a day milking: Nigerians: milk = 1.6 pounds, Fat = 5.83 , Protein 4.46 %, SCC = 86,000 (Note temperatures were over 100F during the days surrounding this milk test)
Here are how some of our better milkers are holding up:
Brown Sugar (2nd freshening 2 year old ND) May TAD: 3.1 pounds, June OAD: 2.7 pounds, July OAD: 2.7 pounds
Cocoa (first freshening yearling ND) May TAD: 2.8 pounds, June OAD: 2.6 pounds, July OAD 2.0 pounds
Prudence (first freshening, but extended lactation 50:50 Nigerian LaMancha) May TAD: 3.5 pounds, June OAD 4.6 pounds, July OAD 3.5 pounds
Wanda (2nd freshening 2 year old LaMancha) May TAD, 9.2 pounds, June OAD 8.9 pounds, July OAD 9.3 pounds . (This is the doe whose udder shots are above)
I will definitely update this post once our August test is complete. For now, most of the doe’s production has lowered, but we didn’t have any does in 2012 that were on extended lactations, that really has to make a difference. The purebred LaManchas and Lamancha crosses are doing better than most of the Nigerian Dwarfs, no surprise there, either. But I believe I can improve upon these numbers by paying close attention to the does who can sustain it well – as we already do by testing how they do with extended lactations, and then choosing those genetics.
Update: 9/15/13 – Just found this research paper on high producing Alpine Goats on once a day milking. really great! http://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(09)70879-3/fulltext
If your Quick Mozzarella doesn’t always turn out perfectly, despite many recipe’s suggesting that it is “so easy”, stop blaming yourself! Stretched curd cheeses, often referred to by their Italian name of “pasta filata”, depend upon some pretty precise chemistry occurring in order to turn out well. In this article I have extracted a bit of what I cover in an entire chapter in my book “Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking” on the subject of stretched curd cheeses. I have included three recipes, from Quick to Long.
The Chemistry of Stretching
Before curd can stretch there must be specific changes in the protein structure. For those changes to occur, the curd must reach the magic pH level of about 5.2. Through the development of acid, calcium is removed from the protein structures, allowing for the formation of the right kind of protein network for stretching. (You can read more about how calcium and other minerals interact with acid in chapters 1 and 3 of my book.) To successfully make these cheeses, you need to be able to monitor the development of acid. A pH meter is the easiest method, but I’ll be telling you how to perform a stretch test on your curd that will tell you the same thing (this is the way they did it in “the old days”).
Stretched curd cheeses are heated in hot whey or a water before they are stretched. In addition to getting the curd to the right temperature at which the protein structure can begin to elongate and move, this high-heat treatment essentially (but not by legal definition) pasteurizes these cheeses. Any culture remaining will be killed as well—one more reason it is important to be sure to have the proper acid development before you try to stretch the curd. Some of the coagulant used will be deactivated, too, causing changes in the breakdown of protein during aging. But the enzymes remaining from the starter culture should provide plenty of protein breakdown power if you are making an aged version of this type of cheese.
Let’s go over the two main approaches to making these cheeses – the quick, added acid method and the long, traditional method. You can also combine the two, as Christy Harris has done in the recipe she provided for my book. If you are making a variety that you want to age, go for the traditional approach!
Why Quick Recipes aren’t always Simple
Quick, easy recipes for mozzarella rely upon the addition of a food acid, almost always citric acid, at the right level to lower the milk pH to the magic 5.2 range. If the milk starts out at a different pH than usual, though, and your measurements are not precise (frankly measuring with a teaspoon is never that exact) then you may end up with a pH above or below the needed level. Too low or too high and the curd won’t stretch. Because the acid is added when the milk is still a liquid, you can’t perform the old fashion stretch test that I am going to tell you about in a bit to determine if the acid level is perfect, but you can use pH strips or a pH meter. Still, these recipes works more often than not and you can increase your odds of success by weighing the calcium chloride and then keeping a good record of the results.
While many quick mozzarella recipes call for using a microwave to heat the curd, skip this approach and use the whey. It is just as easy, in my opinion, and less messy, more accurate, and better for the curd. Microwave ovens rarely, if ever, heat the curd evenly. Even heating is quite important to the process.
You can make quick mozzarella with any type of milk- cow, goat, or sheep. Pasteurized is fine, but not ultra-pasteurized (as many of the proteins have been damaged and will not allow the curd to form and/or stretch). Quick mozzarella cannot be aged, since there are no starter bacteria cultures to protect and enhance the cheese during aging. So plan on using it quickly (perhaps that is what the name actually refers to!) If held in the fridge for a few days, even easy recipes will take on lovely melting qualities for pizza cheese. If you want to keep it soft and tender, you can store it in a bit of whey in the fridge. If the cheese becomes too soft or mushy when stored this way, add a bit of salt and calcium chloride to the whey next time. (more on that at the end of this post)
Traditional Pasta Filata Methods
Mozzarella, Provolone, Caciocavallo, and Queso Oaxaca are just a few of the cheeses made using the pasta filata techniques. Very few commercially available versions are still made by hand, but you can find a few stalwart artisans carrying on these traditions today. If you have made traditional cheddar cheese, prepare to be surprised at how similar the process is, except for the stretching. It is believed that the Britons learned the many of the processes of cheddar making by watching the Roman invaders make mozzarella type cheeses.
Traditional pasta filata cheeses develop the right amount of acid after a long ripening period, partially in the whey and partially after the curd is drained and kept warm. When the goal pH nears (or you think it is almost ready) a stretch test should be done. A piece of curd is heated in hot whey or water and tested for its ability to stretch. After heating the chunk, fold it in on itself a few times, observing the texture. If it folds easily, heat it again and fold again. Then heat a third time and try pulling the piece away from itself. If ready, it will stretch into a long, thin strand. At this point the rest of the curd can be stretch or cooled and frozen for future shaping. (In some parts of the country you can buy curd ready to stretch).
Some recipes use Mesophilic cultures, others Thermophilic and still others a combination of bacteria. Old world recipes often use raw milk and rennet paste (producing a sharp, piquant flavor). Lipase can be added to help emulate this more complex flavor profile.
When using the whey from making traditional and hybrid mozzarella, it is a good idea to first heat the whey until the proteins left in the whey precipitate out of the liquid, usually at about 185F. Skim these delicious real ricotta curds off of the top with a sieve and drain. Then let the whey cool to 175-180 for stretching the curd.
When the curd is ready to stretch, it is a good idea to cut it into small chunks before heating, as this will help heat it evenly. I suggest using a small strainer basket or sieve to lower the curd into the hot whey. When beginning to work the curd, use gentle folding motions, bending the sides in towards the back of the mass (if you have ever made a loaf of bread, the motions are almost identical). At any time when the curd becomes too cool to move easily, reheat it! When the mass is shiny, usually after a couple of rounds of folding and heating, then it is ready to shape. If you are making “string” cheese or a skein (as with queso Oaxaca or queso asedero) then put the curd through several stretching sessions to continually elongate and align the protein networks. When the final shape has been attained, cool the cheese in water. Salt can be added to the heating water and/or the cooling water.
Stretched Curd Cheese Recipes
Quick and Simple Mozzarella
- 1 gallon milk
- 1 ½ tsp citric acid dissolved in ¼ cup cool water
- ¼ tsp calcium chloride dissolved in ¼ cup cool water
- 1/8 tsp double strength rennet dissolved in ¼ cup cool, non-chlorinated water
- Combine milk, citric acid solution, and calcium chloride solution.
- Warm milk to 90 F, stirring evenly.
- Remove from heat and stir in rennet solution with an up and down motion. Still the milk, cover and let set for 5 minutes until curd is well gelled.
- Cut the curd into ½ inch pieces let set for 2 minutes.
- Stir and heat the curd to 105 F over 5-10 minutes or until curd starts to feel somewhat “plastic” or gooey.
- Place a colander over a pot and pour curds into it, reserving the whey. Cover curds.
- Heat whey to 175-180F.
- Cut up curd mass into 1 inch chunks then lower them in 1-2 cup amounts into hot whey.
- Stretch, following stretching tips earlier.
Hybrid Method Mozzarella
- 1 gallon milk
- 1/16 tsp TA 60, 1/16 tsp MM OR 1/8 tsp MA 4000
- ¼ tsp calcium chloride diluted in 1/8 cup water (optional)
- ¼ – ½ tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/8 cup water
- 1/8 tsp double strength rennet diluted in 1/8 cup water
- 1. Warm ½ gallon of the milk to 96F
- 2. Add cultures, let set for 5 minutes then stir well for 3-5 minutes
- 3. Add calcium chloride solution (optional)
- 4. Maintain at 96 F and ripen for one hour, goal pH is about 6.2
- 5. Combine citric acid mixture with the other ½ gallon of milk and warm to 96F, goal pH about 6.0
- 6. Combine two milk mixtures, goal pH about 6.1
- 7. Verify temperature is 96F and add rennet solution stirring with an up and down motion for about 15-30 seconds
- 8. Still the milk and let set for 30 minutes or until ready to cut
- 9. Cut into 3/8 inch chunks, rest 5 minutes
- 10. Gently stir and heat to 115F over 30 minutes.
- 11. Turn off heat and let settle for 5 minutes
- 12. Pour off the whey (saving) and pour curds into cloth lined colander. Set over the drained whey, cover, and keep curds at 102F, turning mass every 30 minutes, until curd passes the stretch test (described earlier).
- 13. Heat whey to 180F and follow stretching directions
Traditional Style for Aging
- 2 gallons milk
- 1/8 plus teaspoon Thermo B
- ½ tsp calcium chloride diluted in 1/8 cup cool water (optional)
- 1/16 teaspoon double strength rennet diluted in 1/8 cup cool water
- Warm milk to 80F and sprinkle cultures on top. Let set 5 minutes. Stir well.
- Increase temperature to 90F and hold for one hour.
- Stir in calcium chloride if using.
- Stir in rennet solution with an up and down motion for one minute. Still milk and let set quietly until clean break is achieved. Goal coagulation time is 45 minutes.
- Cut curd into 3/8 – ½ inch chunks, rest 5 minutes
- Stir gently and heat slowly to 95-98F over 15 minutes. Then stir and heat to 118F over 30 more minutes. Hold at 118F, stirring occasionally to keep from matting, until curd pH is 6.0. This may take 60-90 minutes.
- Drain the curds (saving whey) in a colander. Cover colander and place over warm pot, keeping the curd temperature at about 102-104 F.
- Turn curd mass every 30-45 minutes until curd pH is about 5.2 or when curd passes stretch test.
- Heat whey to 180F, add a pinch of salt and follow stretching directions. Curd can also be chilled and saved to stretch later (it can also be frozen).
Quick versions of mozzarella can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, but will not age safely. They are best used fresh! The traditional method can be used fresh, stored in a light brine made from whey, smoked, and aged. The hybrid method can also be aged, but will likely be a little less complex do to less bacterial activity.
Storing in whey/brine:
- Mix one quart of filtered (through cloth) whey left over after stretching with an 1/8 teaspoon of salt. This amount can be adjusted depending upon if you salted the whey during stretching or the water during chilling. The saltier they mixture, the more firm the cheese will be, so if you want it tender, you may want to omit the salt completely.
- Immerse small balls or discs of fresh mozzarella in the solution. A ziplock type bag can be used – squeeze the extra air out of the bag so that moisture surrounds the balls. This method requires less liquid.
- If the liquid becomes cloudy or the cheese starts getting soggy or soft, you probably need to add a bit of calcium chloride to the brine. Try about ¼ teaspoon per quart. Adjust up if the cheese continues to soften and less if the cheese becomes too firm.
Probiotics. The new darling of health and advertising. Do cheeses really contain any of these amazing, essential microbes?
While I have no letters after my name (unless I capriciously add them), it doesn’t require a university degree to understand that bacteria, both beneficial and hurtful, can only live under certain contidions. I am a cheesemaker and I study science as it relates to dairy. I know what cultures I add to milk to make cheese. Very few of these are currently considered probiotic. And even if they were, when cheese is aged, the bacteria gradually die off as they run out of food to metabolize. So even when probiotic cultures are used, they do not survive longterm aging*. In fact, I was at a conference in England this last summer where research into genetically modifying probiotic bacteria to survive cheesemaking and aging was discussed. (Without much enthusiasm on the part of the artisan cheesemakers present, I might add!)
* I did find that some aged cheeses are commercially being designed to include probiotic bacteria that survive long term aging. These cheeses are labeled as containing probiotics and are not available widely as of yet. I think you can expect to see more products such as this in the future- if nothing else, they will be introduced for the market value they will bring.
I was doing some research today for my latest book (on raw milk production and consumption). I was reading a on probiotics that I chose for it’s high ranking and great reviews on Amazon. After perusing the front chapters, I skipped to the section containing information about cheese and dairy products – and immediately had to begin putting yellow highlighter frowny faces in the margins (my system for reviewing books). At first I wondered if perhaps my information was wrong, but then found another contradiction that basically confirmed that the author was not really aware of at least this portion of his subject. (I sure hate it when what you think is going to be a reputable source, turns out to be suspect.)
So lets go over a few basic things that you can always apply to probiotics -to help determine for yourself if a food is a good source of these helpful bacteria.
- In order to be probiotic, the bacteria must survive the harsh environment of our stomach and travel on to the next portions of our digestive system. Not very many bacteria have this capability – the stomach is one of the first defenses against bacterial contamination of food!
- Probiotic bacteria in food must have a source of nourishment – or they will die (unless, of course, they are held in stasis through something such as freezing). This is true of all bacteria. Once a food is fully fermented, the bacteria begin to perish unless fermentation is suspended – through refrigeration or some other means. Even then, their life span is limited.
- High heat, such as scalding or boiling, kills all but bacteria that are capable of forming spores that protect them from the heat. So even if milk or cheese or whey contains probiotic bacteria if it is cooked they will die.
The bacteria currently considered probiotic include only a couple of strains regularly used in making cheese. A fresh cheese that uses these bacteria as a part of its fermentation process will likely have some of these helpful microbes still living, but the longer a cheese is aged, the fewer bacteria remain alive. Aged hard cheeses are not sterile, but the life forms found on and around them are typically environmental, not those that were added during the cheesemaking process. In cheeses made using high heat and added acid, such as whey and milk ricotta, any probiotic bacteria in the whey will be killed during the high heat treatment (along with enzymes and milk’s natural defensive systems).
Bottom line, don’t look to aged cheeses as a probiotic source, yogurt is a no-brainer if probiotics are your goal! Instead, enjoy aged, natural cheeses for what they are meant to be – deliciously preserved (usually through fermentation) milk.
P.S.: So where can you find information on probiotics that you can trust? Hard to say! Popular topics are a magnet for publishers and writers. The best advice is to consult more than one source, preferably those that list scientific studies as their sources – but of course all the studies that will be helpful have not been done, nor is science a static subject.
Oh, here are a couple of sources I used to write this post:
Vet. Med. – Czech, 47, 2002 (6): 169–180 Review Article 169 – Lactic Acid Bacteria, Probiotics and the Immune System
R. HERICH, M. LEVKUT
Department of Pathology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Košice, Slovak Republic
J Dairy Sci. 1987 Jan;70(1):1-12.
Survival of lactic acid bacteria in the human stomach and adhesion to intestinal cells.
Conway PL, Gorbach SL, Goldin BR.
http://www.dairycouncilofca.org/pdfs/probiotics.pdf, “Friendly Bacteria with a Host of Benefits”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC106298/ Probiotic Cheese