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Butterkase
This month our cheese focus will be on a beauty that we have been getting many requests for lately. It is a rather unusual but yummy cheese. Even though many of you have never even heard the name, it is one you will be coming back to once you have tried it!

Butterkase is a wonderful fresh young cheese, full of moisture, flavor, and with a wonderful buttery texture (hence the name!)

Whats not to like about that!


The name says it all ..

Butter (we all know what that is) and Kase, the word for cheese in German speaking, lands and falls into the international cheese language for cheese:
Kase, Kass, Queso, Queijo, Caccio, and even the English Cheese all evolved from old Latin for cheese, "Caseus".
Somehow just the name Butterkase has us thinking about snack time, with this cheese just sliced or melted over something tasty.

The mild flavor and soft texture make this an ideal cheese for the table. I am sure that a lot of those requests that came to me for this recipe came from folks that grew up with this as the 'GoTo' cheese at home when young (or not so young).

The cheese is normally presented as a rectangular loaf-like shape and normally weighs about 3.5 lbs. It does contain a high moisture content and at room temperature may begin to deform slightly. The higher moisture is also part of the reason why it has such a buttery texture and melts so well. This higher moisture is, in large part, due to the way the cheese curd develops.
The cheese can also be seen in low disc shaped forms as well and is probably the easiest way to make this at home, as in my photo above.

The surface of the cheese undergoes a series of light salt washes during its early aging life, but this is kept to a minimum and eventually washed off to favor a milder flavor. This also serves to maintain the high moisture and thin supple rind.

The body of the cheese is usually quite open with irregular holes (as in the photo to the left). These are called mechanical holes and are the result of an early draining of the curds and very little to no press weight during the molding.

I have also seen Butterkase showing the round shiny holes from internal expanding gas pockets, similar to found in Gouda or Alpine style cheeses (Comte, Gruyere, etc.). These would be the result of a different press weight and warmer aging conditions.


A Modern Cheese:

In looking for some background on the history for this cheese, I was surprised at how little information there was available. This leads me to believe that it is a very modern cheese, developed perhaps in the last 50 years (yes, that would be modern for cheese history!)
For such a young style of cheese, I do find it rather surprising how quickly its popularity has increased, but it really is an all-around tasty cheese that has certainly gained its fans quickly.
Currently this cheese is made in Germany, Austria, Switzerland,  and even in the US several producers can be found.

This growing popularity is another great reason to focus on this cheese for the monthly recipe.

A Very Different Cheese Process:

There are three process variations that make this cheese what it is:

1.) One of the most interesting and unusual stages in the process for this cheese is the temperature to which the milk is heated BEFORE adding rennet.
The milk is taken to 104-108F before the rennet is added. These higher temperatures (up to 108°F) result in faster rennet coagulation times and above 106°F the rennet coagulation begins to slow again. Lower temperatures result in slower coagulation as well.

Therefore we do expect the coagulation to be quicker and firmer. As a result this will tend to keep more moisture in the curd which is less likely to drain.


2.) Another process point of interest is the use of the two different cultures:

  1. A Mesophilic culture that does best at 86F and is well on its way to dying off at 104-106F.
  2. A Thermophilic culture that does well at 104-112F (Optimum temperature range).

Considering the Mesophilic cultures, the milk is initially heated to 86F but remains there just long enough for the Mesophilic culture to begin developing (about 30-45minutes) before the temperature is raised to 104-106F and the Mesophilic culture dies off.

The obvious question is...
Why bother adding the Mesophilic just to kill it off, since it is not allowed to live long enough to carry out its primary role of converting milk sugars to lactic acid?
The answer to this points us to the secondary function of most dairy bacteria. Their secondary role is the release of enzymes following the death of the cell. These have been found to function heavily in the breakdown of proteins during the aging process. These protein changes will be realized in the final texture of this cheese.

The Thermophilic culture on the other hand, will be comfortably working at its optimum temperature. This is a much higher initial starting temperature than most other Thermophilic cheeses use.


(3) Also of note is that Butterkase is normally a very mild cheese due to a restrained development of acid and can be found with a slightly acid taste as well as a sweeter version. This is usually controlled by varying the availability of lactose during the process. The sweeter version has a good portion of the lactose taken out and replaced with warm water before the curd is drained. This is known as a 'washed curd' process and is similar to that used in the making of Gouda cheese.
I will fully detail these two options below.


A recipe for making your own Butterkase in the kitchen.

Our intent for this cheese is to produce a relatively moist curd going into the forms and allow it to continue developing acid while draining whey in a warm environment.

Before you Begin:

You will need:

  • 2 gallon of milk (Not Ultra Pasteurized)
  • Cultures:
    • 1 packet of our Buttermilk culture as the Mesophilic addition for it's enzyme contribution
    • 1 packet of our C201 Thermophilic culture for the higher temperature.
    • Geotrichum just a pinch (1/64 tsp) to dry out the surface and develop a protective surface growth. Add this with the other cultures.
  • Liquid Rennet (2.25 ml or slightly less that 1/2 tsp)
  • Brine for initial Salting the cheese (This should be prepared in advance).
  • Salt (non-iodized) will be needed to prepare the washes for aging.
  • A good thermometer.
  • A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds with.
  • Stainless-6inch Molds (1)
  • Some butter muslin to line the molds for draining the curds.
  • Draining mats to allow the whey to run off from the molded curds.
  • A small weight (5-8 lbs) to apply weight for slight consolidation of the curds.
  • Calcium Chloride for pasteurized cold stored milk

Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.


Acidifying and heating the milk:

Begin by heating the milk to 86F (30C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats

Once the milk is at 86F the two cultures can be added plus the geotrichum. To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.

Allow this to ripen for 45-60 minutes holding the temperature above.
During this time both the Mesophilic and Thermophilic bacteria will begin to awaken but will be doing only minimal acid production.

Prepare the mold, cloth, and draining area by sanitizing everything while waiting for the culture to develop.

Next, begin heating the milk to 104F. As you heat from 86F, any Mesophilic activity that has begun will slow down until it reaches 102-104F, then they will begin to die off within about 15 minutes at the higher temperature. The enzymes left behind will be beneficial during aging.
Meanwhile, the Thermophilic will begin to move its more favorable temperature range and begin converting lactose to lactic acid.


Coagulation with rennet:

Then add about 2.25 ml or slightly less that 1/2 tsp of single strength liquid rennet.

The milk now needs to sit quiet for 20-25 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd . This is a very quick coagulation time due to the higher temperature and the milk will begin to thicken at about 8 minutes. The rennet needs to be added and mixed in thoroughly for 1 minute without agitating the milk excessively (up and down mixing is best). The milk needs to become still within 3 minutes of adding the rennet.

The high temperature will form a very firm curd and should have an almost tofu-like texture.
Test the curd to be sure a good firm coagulation has taken place. The break should be very clean and the whey forming in the gap should be neither too milky nor too clear.


Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

The firm curd can now be cut. The first cut should be vertical only in both directions at about 2 inches. Rest the curd for about 5 minutes before the next cut. This will allow the cuts to heal and release minimal fat into the whey.
Next, make the horizontal cut with a spoon or draining ladle and continue breaking the curd to about 5/8 inch pieces over the next 7-10 minutes. Keep the curd moving gently during this time to avoid clumping.

Cooking the curds :

Considering that the milk/curds were already heated to a higher temperature of 104-106F, there is no need for further heating of the curds.

We do have a couple of options to vary the character of the final cheese at this point:

  • Option 1
    To produce a slightly more acid profile cheese:
    Let the curds rest for a short time (15-30 min.) to heal, release whey, and firm up.
    Only intermittent stirring (every 3-5 minutes) should be done just to keep curds free from matting.
  • Option 2
    To produces a sweeter cheese:
    This option involves a whey removal and replacement with the same temperature water. This will remove lactose and slow the acid development by reducing the lactose supply for the culture.

Do this by:

  • Stirring the curds gently for 10 minutes.
  • Allow the curds to settle to the bottom.
  • Remove 50% of the whey.
  • Add the same amount of water back at 104-106F.
  • Stir gently for 30 to 45 min.
Removing the Whey

Adding Warm Water Back

The final curds should be cooked well enough, so that when a small handful is compressed slightly, they do not become 'mooshy' (my new technical word for disintegrating, breaking down, etc.). In other words they may tend to deform but do not individually break up in your hand. This can be adjusted by the amount of final stirring times in both options above.

Forming the Cheese:

The final curds can now be transferred to the form (you should have already prepared and lined with butter muslin).

Begin by removing whey again down to about 1 inch above the curd surface.
Then transfer the curd along with the whey to your form, lightly compacting it as you fill.
Initially you may use a 4-6 lb. weight for about 1 hr. to consolidate the curd but do remember that an open internal paste is expected for this cheese.

At this point, your cheese is still converting lactose to lactic acid and MUST be kept warm at 80-90F for the next 5-6 hrs while this acid production completes. The interior of the cheese may remain much warmer for several hours since it is cooling down from the original curd temperature of 104F

I maintain the higher temperature during draining here by using my insulated draining table with pans of hot water and an insulated cover as shown below.

Keeping the developing cheese warm using pans of hot water.
The draining table is then topped with a closed cell foam insulating pad and a top board to keep the heat in.

You can do this at home simply by using an insulated cooler with jars or jugs of warm water to incubate the cheese. Remember to remove the whey that is released, as it accumulates.

The fresh Butterkase will need to be turned frequently at 30 minute intervals to close the surface openings during the first 3-4 hours. The cheese should be removed from the mold, unwrapped, turned, rewrapped, and put back into the mold at the above intervals to assure an even surface consolidation. At each turn you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.

At about 5-6 hours after molding the cheese, it should be ready to be un-molded, cooled overnight, and transferred to it's salt bath.
If the cheese still seems to be expelling whey, this is an indication that the cheese has cooled too much during the post molding and acid development has slowed. Allow it to sit a bit longer to develop its final acid and try to warm the developing cheese more next time.

.

Salting:

You should already have a saturated brine prepared for salting this cheese.
You will find all of the details you need on brining here.
A simple brine formula is:
1 Gallon of water to which is added 2.25 Lbs of Salt, 1tbs. Calcium Chloride (30% solution), and 1 tsp. white vinegar.

The cheese now needs to be soaked in the brine for about 3-4 hours.
The brining is done at a cool temperature of 52-56F. Warmer conditions cause a faster salt intake and allow certain salt loving molds to grow. (I always keep my brine in the cool cave between uses.)

The cheese will float above the brine surface so sprinkle another teaspoon or two of salt on the top surface of the cheese.
Flip the cheese and resalt the surface about half way through the brine period.

At the end of the brine bath, wipe the surface and allow the cheese to surface dry for a day . The surface may darken somewhat during this time but watch that no cracking occurs. I normally dry my cheese at about 52-56F and a moisture of about 65-75%.


Aging:

The cheese is now ready for aging.

The cheese should now be placed into your aging space at 52-56F and 90-95% moisture. This is a higher amount of moisture than my cave normally operates at, so I use flat trays with covers as seen to the right to hold the higher moisture.
The ripening should be done for a minimum of 4-6 weeks but it can develop more character if held for longer.

The cheese should be turned at least once a day and during the first week it will develop a yeast community on the surface. The cheese will change from a rather dry surface to a greasy surface due to this. The surface community is actually decreasing the acidity because of the yeast and thus preparing it for a thin coat of geotrichum to grow. A small amount of a rosy-orange bacteria (natural B.linens) may also develop.

This yeast (and eventually molds) should be controlled by periodically washing in a light brine (1 Tbs. noniodized salt in 1 cup of water) every 3-4 days. If the cheese surface tends to dry between these washing, wipe them as needed with a cloth moistend with unsalted potable water. In this case the moisture needs top be higher.

The cheese is taken from the cave to it's wash basin
Note the light mold growth here

The light mold growth is carefully washed off

Then dry for 1-2 hours but never let the surface darken or become completely dry. Then return to the aging space. After about 10 days you will see a thin powdery white growth (the geotrichum you added initially).

The cheese gets dried off for a few hours after the wash and
then is placed in its ripening tray to preserve the higher moisture in the cave

At about 3-4 weeks, the cheese can be washed for the last time. The earlier this is done, the milder the final cheese. At about 4-6 weeks the cheese is ready for the table, but if a more complex cheese is desired with a softer structure, it can be wrapped and moved to a cooler 40-42F aging space for extended aging. The moisture needs to be kept high enough to keep the surface from drying out.


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