Cover the pot and set aside for ripening. The milk now needs to sit quiet for 12-24 hours while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. It is OK if the temperature drops to a temperature of 68-72°F. The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm for a while though.
This is where your natural flavor is developed from the complex strains of lactic bacteria as they convert the milk sugars (lactose) to lactic acid. These cultures will produce a buttery flavored compound (Diacetyl) which is a natural byproduct of fermentation. Also a small amount of tiny gas holes (CO2) will be formed causing a lighter texture in the final cheese.
Note - Our C101 or MA011 cultures will not provide the added flavor from their ripening strains nor the lighter texture.
The higher process temperatures and thickener additions of commercial producers are needed for their shorter process and do not allow the use of this longer beneficial ripening time (this is the flavor development time).
Ripening may take 12-24 hours depending on the milk quality and room temperature. My conditions here show this ripening phase in about 14-16 hours but you should watch for the proper ripening of your own milk. I encourage you to watch for this final ripening phase as described below.
The final ripening can be determined visually because when the proper amount of acid has been produced, you will notice first small droplets of whey forming on the surface, then these will collect as small pools and then finally a thin layer of whey will cover the entire surface.
I usually determine the readiness by watching for small pools about 2-3” in size. You may also see the curd mass pull slightly away from the sides of the pot.
If you have a pH meter, the proper ripe state will measure about 5.1-4.9 pH or a titrateable acidity of .5% but there is no need to get that technical here.
Too long a ripening may result in an over acid cheese. Some acid production will continue during the draining stage so expect a bit more acid flavor while the whey drains off.
Too short a time may result in a weak curd that may be hard to drain and may even run off through the cloth. Make sure the curd holds a good clean break when cut before transferring to the cloth for draining.