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A Trappist Style Cheese
Port du Salut or Saint Paulin


This months cheese is a great choice as we enter the summer season because it really goes well with beer and BBQ. It is a semi-soft cheese that expresses the richness of summers bounty with a rich creamy flavor and smooth texture. This cheese was developed long ago by the Trappist Monks and goes by the name of 'Port du Salut' (the Gates of Salvation), but is also known as 'Saint Paulin' in another derivation. Essentially they are both the same cheese.

 

About this Cheese:

The 'Trappist' style cheese is one with a semi-soft body and is usually ripened with a washed or smeared rind resulting in a yellow to orange rind. Unfortunately, the commercial versions today are made with an orange dye sprayed onto the surface at the end of the ripening process.

The traditional ripening is due to a series of light brine washes which selects for a specific bacteria (coriniforms including B.linens) that naturally produces a rather colorful surface and is actually responsible for producing enzymes that cause the cheese to ripen to the center producing a very soft and aromatic cheese.
This cheese process is somewhat similar to the more "aromatic" cheeses, such as Limburger, but is much milder due to a more restrained ripening.

The most notable factors in making this cheese are:

  1. the series of light salt brine washes,which are very important in setting the stage for the special enzyme production which slowly moves towards the center of the cheese.
  2. the high moisture of the cheese body, which will allow these enzymes to move quickly.
  3. a high humidity in the aging spaceto keep the cheese surface from drying out.

As the process of ripening progresses, the enzymes begin to break the proteins into smaller and smaller components, thus reducing the acidity and developing flavor in the cheese. As ripening continues, this moves deeper and deeper into the cheese until the entire interior of the cheese has been ripened.

The images above show the differences between
the commercial (left) and traditionally made (right) cheeses


A Bit of History

The Trappist name was originally given to the monks from the LaTrappe Abbey in Normandy. This Cistercian order is best known for their self sufficiency and production of fine food/beverages within the Abbey grounds. They are known best for their jams, honeys, liqueur, and Trappist beers even today.

Several of these Abbeys had developed through France and the rest of Europe prior to the French Revolution, but with the upheaval of the revolution the monks were forced to leave France (13 February 1790, all religious orders were dissolved). Prior to the French Revolution, the Abbeys were major landholders and supported themselves and their works through the tributes and tithes due these Monastic centers in return for land leases. Cheese was included as payments, as a means to preserve the milk from these leaseholders and hence, the Abbeys did not make it.

The monks from the LaTrappe Abbey fled with their Abbot Dom Augustine de Lestranges to Switzerland. During this exile, they learned the essentials of making this cheese as a means to support themselves. Upon their return in 1815, they brought their cheese making with them and they built the Monastery of Notre Dame du Port du Salut in Entrammes, France. Here, they also began to make and evolve this cheese they had learned to produce in Switzerland. The cheese they produced is naturally named after their monastery. It was these monks that refined the bacterial rinds that now are signature to many of our aromatic cheeses like this. Similar cheeses are collectively known today as Trappist cheeses.

For many years, and well up into the 20th century, Port du Salut was a very respected cheese and sold well in Paris and throughout France. However, the demands of the government to make changes in their production, plus the costs of upgrading their facility, eventually caused the monks to cease producing this cheese. The rights to production were eventually sold to one of the larger cheese factories and the name is still held by them, but the process is much different today (noted primarily by the very orange dyed rinds).

Fortunately for all cheese lovers, the process was also passed on to other Abbeys and Convents and similar cheeses are still made the traditional way in France, as well as in Canada, the US, and Denmark (BUT that and the stories of it all will be saved for another cheese page). One of the names that evolved was Saint Paulin (since Port Salut was now only available to the new industrial owners).


A Recipe for making your own Port Salut

This cheese was a very interesting research project due to its history and process. During my research, I managed to find no less than six different directions to take the recipe in. There were multiple variations of some of these, but my goal was to find something that I felt to be most in line with what the Abbey at Port du Salut produced in the past. The recipe below was derived from looking at older recipes and several of the sources were written between 1900-1936.
The guide I have prepared below was based on a slow acid development using:
  1. a low dose of lower temperature natural dairy Mesophilic bacteria
  2. curd washing to remove lactose
  3. salt added to the wash water to slow the bacteria

This is to develop a moist and low acid cheese.

My guideline this month is for a good quality pasteurized milk of about 3.25% butterfat. Although the photos show a double batch, the guide is for 2 gallons or about 2.25-2.5 lbs of cheese, depending on your final moisture.

If you prefer to use raw milk, then cut back about 20-40% on culture and 15-25% on rennet, because the raw milk has its own natural culture and the calcium/protein balance is so good that the curd forms with much less help from the rennet. It would also be wise to skim any high fat raw milk back to about 3.25-3.7%

Before you Begin:

You will need:

Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.


Acidifying and heating the milk:

If you do use a raw milk of higher than 3.7% butterfat, allow the milk to sit cold overnight for the cream to rise and then skim enough cream to reduce the butterfat to 3.25-3.7%.
I have access to a great herd of Jersey here which runs about 5% fat, so I skimmed the cream and added about half back to the milk saving the extra cream to add back to ricotta I made from the whey.

Begin by heating the milk to 88F (31C).
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 88F the culture and b. linens can be added.
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 the milk to ripen for about 30 minutes (less time than many other cheeses) while maintaining the temperature.


Coagulation with rennet:

Next add about 1/2tsp (2.5ml) of single strength liquid rennet. Dilute this in about 30-40ml of cool non-chlorinated water.
Stir this in gently for about 1 minute in a bottom to top manner and make sure the milk goes still when done.

The milk now needs to sit quiet for 30-40 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. You will notice the milk thickens at about 12 minutes but allow it to go the full time of 30-40 minutes.

The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.

During the wait for coagulation, make sure your cheese molds and cloth are sanitized. I always keep a pot of warm water (~145F) to sanitize with.
This seems to be the most sensible way to sanitize molds, cheese cloth, and other heat stable tools to me.

Line your molds with the sanitized cheese cloth.


Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

Before the cutting, you are looking for a clean break when you test the curd, by breaking the surface as shown here. The whey rising in the cut should be neither too cloudy (cut too soon) or too clear (cut too late).

Cut the curds to about 3/8" inch and then allow the whey to rise for about 3-5 minutes.

Next stir the curds gently for another 5 minutes.

Cooking the curds :

Now it is time to begin drying out the curds. This will be done by increasing the heat slowly to 102F (39C). The heat needs to be increased slowly over a 15 minute period.

The final curds should be moderately firm and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. The curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.

When this point is reached, the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey.


Washing the curds:

This step will slow the bacteria development for a less acid cheese, using several functional controls:

  1. The whey removal will take out much of the lactose used as food by bacteria and slow the acid development.
  2. The cool water will slow the bacteria activity as it moves back to the original temperature.
  3. The salt addition will both slow the bacteria and help remove moisture from the curd.

Begin by first preparing the curd wash; this is a light brine made by adding 2 oz. salt to 1/2 gallon of 60F water.

Next remove about 40-50% of the whey, leaving about 1inch of whey above the curd bed .

Give the curd mass a quick stir to separate the curds.

Then add enough cool brine to bring the temperature back down to 88F (add a bit more cold water if needed).

Continue to stir this for the next 20-30 minutes to achieve the proper dryness before molding the cheese.

NOTE: The whey removed above can be a great source for making a wonderful sweet ricotta


Forming the Cheese:

The dry curds can now be transferred to the cloth lined molds that have been sanitized and prepared. Make sure you can accommodate the draining whey that will be released.

Begin by giving the curd a quick final stir to separate the individual curds.

Remove the whey to the curd level and begin transferring the curds with the remaining whey to the molds.

Use firm hand pressure to pack the curds into the mold.

The curd mass will be heaped well over the basket surface initially as shown in the photos here.

In using the basket molds, the curds should be allowed to drain as the curd is transferred.

NOTE: The BasketMold take a little patience to get all of the curds into it, but will form a nice,chubby little cheese. If looking for a good follower combo as shown in the photos below for pressing, Ricki has both the stainless plate and plastic disc available on her web page. They fit the basket perfectly
The Stainless-6inch mold will be a bit easier to work with and will make a wider low form cheese, not quite as high as the basket mold. They both will produce a very nice cheese when ripened.


Pressing:

Once the curds are in the basket, fold the cloth as evenly as possible over the curds and place the followers evenly to distribute the weight.

For pressing, we should begin very light and slowly increase the press weight to a moderate level, turning and re-wrapping the cheese in between each pressing, following the schedule below:

  • 30 minutes at 3-4 lbs.
  • 60 minutes at 3-4 lbs.
  • 60 minutes at 8-12 lbs
  • 4-6 hours at 8-12 lbs., turning several times during this period

As you can see very little weight is required for this cheese.

It is essential that the temperature of the cheese during pressing be kept above 75F because the bacteria have not finished converting the remaining lactose. This should be maintained for 16-20 hrs to assure a complete fermentation.

When the surface is consolidated (8-10 hrs), the weight can be removed from the cheese, but do maintain the temperature.


Initial weight of about 6 lbs or 3 lbs per cheese
Using warm whey or water helps to keep the temperature.


An increase to about 12 lbs per cheese

At each turn you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.


The basket mold will leave a nice imprint on the surface of the cheese.


Salting:

A saturated brine will need to 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, 1tbls. Calcium Chloride (30% solution), and 1 tsp. white vinegar.

The cheese now needs to sit in the brine for about 4 hours.
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 re-salt 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 before moving to a plastic box with cover to maintain the higher moisture needed for aging this cheese. The surface will begin to soften as the salt migrates into the cheese over the next several days.

Aging:

The cheese needs to be kept at 65-68F and a moisture of 92-96%.

The higher moisture and temperature will encourage the new surface to develop as the cheese ages.

Hold cheese 3 days before initial wash by simply flipping it and returning to its covered box (higher moisture).

Prepare the first surface wash a day before application with 1 cup cool water +1 tbs. salt+1/16tsp. B.linens.
Hold this brine overnight for bacteria to develop before using it to wash the cheese surface.

On day 3 following the brine salting, wash the cheese surface with a cloth dipped in the above brine .

Then on day 7 and 10, prepare the same brine without B.linens and wash the surface again.

On day 14 wash all surface mold away (remember, it is just a mild flavor you are after for this cheese).
Then hold at 40F maintaining the high moisture for 3-6 weeks depending on your taste. The longer it ages the softer and more complex the flavor becomes.




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In Peace,
Ricki, the cheese queen

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