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Wine Infused Cheese


Wine and Cheese have been a great combo for thousands of years.

It all began with the realization that grapes and milk could undergo a very special fermentation under the right conditions and become greatness all by themselves.

This month I will explore combining these two old friends into a unique cheese by soaking the cheese curds in wine before molding and pressing takes place.

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Wine and Cheese; both great on their own, but lets put them together for a sensational cheese this month.

You have probably heard, that the results can often be greater than the sum (Synergy) of the two parts.
(In effect, 2+2 can be greater than 4)

So we will be producing a little Synergy this month.

How about we call it
"Synergistic Infusion".


The working plan for this one will simply be to produce curds with a softer and more mellow character. Then we will let these soak in a bath of dark red wine long enough for the wine to soak into the curd and develop a beautiful dark surface, lots of wine flavor and aroma before we pack them into the mold and press until consolidated.

More specifically we will:

  1. Develop a moderate sized curd with a higher moisture to provide a better flow of wine character and color into the curd. Also, to develop a nice supple texture in our final cheese and a reasonably short aging time to keep he wine character from being lost.
    The curd making can be in many styles but I have chosen to do a stirred curd cheese for this one.
    A moist Tomme-style or even a higher moisture Alpine-style might also work nicely.
  2. Use a nice dark red wine with a more fruit forward flavor and aroma, typical of many of the California wines made today. This is no place for the more austere wines. Remember, we are looking for something to complement the great dairy flavor and aromatics.
    We will then soak the curds long enough in the wine to give them character before salting, moving to the mold, and pressing.

In the end, we should end up with a great showpiece of a cheese. One that, when cut, shows the beautiful pale curds individually coated with a deep red/purple surround. The longer the curds soak before molding, the deeper the color and flavor will penetrate.
Also the smaller and moister the curds, the more the wine character will show.

Your finished cheese when cut will be somewhat of a show-off piece and a great centerpiece for your cheese board.


A Recipe for making a cheese infused with wine

The cheese made for this session as I have pictured below was from 4 gallons of milk, but the following recipe is for 2 gallon batch to fit our M3 Mold and will yield approximately a 2 lbs cheese.
For a larger batch, the ingredients can be increased proportionate to the milk.

The wine I used was a very dark and fruit forward Petit Sirah from my own cellar here.

Our target will be a medium moisture cheese with an aging time of 2-4 months.
The goal is to have the wine and cheese flavors complement each other. A longer acid development will also help the flavor development for this cheese.

Before you Begin:

You will need:

  • 2 gallon of milk (Not UltraPasteurized)
  • 1 packet of our Buttermilk culture
  • Liquid Rennet (2.3 ml or slightly less than 1/2 tsp)
  • Salt
  • 1 bottle of dark red wine for some dramatic color and flavor.
  • A good thermometer
  • A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds with.
  • Molds SmallMold-M3 with draining cloth
  • A colander to drain the curds
  • A Cheese Press or weights to apply sufficient weight for 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 88F (31C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. Start with a water bath about 10-15F above the target temperature for the milk and then reduce your temperature in the water bath with cold water additions as the milk approaches the target temperature.
If you do this by direct heat using a pot on the stove, make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.

The wine should be brought out at this time and allowed to warm to room temperature until needed.

Once the milk is at 88F, the culture 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.

The milk and culture now need to rest quietly for 60 minutes to allow the bacteria to develop its initial lactic character.


Coagulation with rennet:

Next add about 2.3 ml or slightly less than 1/2 tsp of single strength liquid rennet.

The milk now needs to sit quiet for 30 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. You will notice the milk thickening at about 12 minutes but hold still for the full 30 minutes or until you see a good firm curd. Cutting early or late will affect the final cheese.
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 but do bring it up soon after cutting the curds (this should not be an issue if working with the water batch method).

During this wait time heat about 1.5 qts of water to about 140F and hold at this temperature for the upcoming curd cooking stage. I find this is at just about the warm settings on my small stove burner.


Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

Once you have determined that a good curd has formed, then you are ready to cut into smaller 3/4 inch curds.

The larger cut size will keep more moisture in the final cheese.

For the higher moisture and larger curds, I tend to treat the cut curds very gently at all times when cutting and stirring.

Following the cut, allow the curds to rest for about 5 minutes to help the surface heal before stirring. A gentle lifting motion of the curds every minute or so will help to keep them separated and avoid any clumping together.

Cooking the curds :

Next it is time to begin drying out the curds. If your temperature has dropped, bring it back to 88F.
Allow the curds to settle to the bottom of the pot briefly, then remove about 1/3 of the original milk volume (about 42 oz. for each gallon of mik) as whey.
This will functionally be removing some of the food supply (lactose) and slow the cultures ability to produce acid.

The next step will be to add the 140F water slowly in stages over the next 30 minutes. The final temperature should be about 102F.
Following this the curds should be stirred (gently) for another 30-45minutes for the curd to release more whey. Remember to increase the temperature of your water bath to keep the curds warm.

The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and 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


Curd firmness at different stages of cooking
Note how the one on the right has a more defined shape (drier)

The common test for dryness is to press a handful of curds in the hand to consolidate the mass and then pressing with the thumb see how easily they release or break apart. The drier curds break apart quite easily, the moister curds tend to adhere slightly but still do break apart readily.


The common curd test for final dryness


Removing the whey:

The curd now needs to be removed from the whey.
I do this here by allowing the curds to settle for a few minutes then float a sanitized plastic colander on the surface which then fills with whey which can be easily dipped off for other uses (this whey should make a good ricotta).

Once the majority of whey is removed, the dry curds can be transferred to a colander for final draining.
They should be gently stirred here to make sure that the whey drains off well and the curds do not consolidate.
It is important that the curds remain intact and separate.


Ripening the Curds:

Once the whey has been released, return the curds to the pot and keep warm (102F in the water bath/sink).
The curd at this point should have released most of the moisture required but still needs to be kept warm while the bacteria continues working to convert more lactose to lactic acid.
For the next 60 minutes the curd should be stirred occasionally but just enough to keep the curds from sticking together. Any accumulating whey can be poured off.

Adding the Wine:

And now for the wine... isn't this what we have all been waiting for?
I suggest using a wine like Merlot, Malbec, Syrah .. nothing too austere or acid. Here I have chosen a Petite Sirah since I make my own wine here as well. I always have 4 barrels or so here in various stages of development so plenty to choose from.

At this point the curd should have reached the final moisture and acidity and are ready for their wine bath. The curds should still be warm 80-90F and the wine about 10-15F degrees cooler. This difference in temperature will encourage the curds to absorb the liquid (wine) more readily. Remember using the warmer water addition previously in the cooking stage causing more whey to flow out of the curd, This time the cooler wine is absorbed by the curd.

Next, Pour the wine onto the curds and stir just enough to keep them covered with wine to allow for an even infusion throughout the curds.

The longer the curd and wine remain in contact, the more color and flavor will be passed on to the finished cheese. I find about 1 hour to be sufficient.

At this point each of the curds should have absorbed a nice wine color on the surface with a clean white interior as well as absorbing the flavor and aromatics from the wine. This makes for a rather dramatic presentation when pressed, looking like a mosaic of purple outlines surrounding each curd.

Salting:

Once the curds have been well infused with the wine, drain off the excess wine and measure the salt.
About 2% by weight should be sufficient for a final cheese of about 1.5% salt. Our final cheese will be about 2 lbs therefore 0.64oz of salt will be needed (32oz x .02 = .64 oz).
Add 1/2 of this salt and stir it well into the curds, wait 5 minutes while the first dose of salt is absorbed and then repeat.

Molding the Curds:

The curds should now be well salted, and ready for the mold.
Simply line the form with the draining cloth and transfer the curds, packing well with moderate hand pressure. Place the follower on top and you are ready for pressing.

Pressing:

Next, for pressing we should begin very light and slowly increase the press weight to a moderate level:

  • 60 minutes at 20 lbs.
  • 2 hours at 40 lbs
  • 16 hours at 60 lbs

The rate of whey running off is simply a matter of drops and not a stream of whey being released. This is a good rate of whey removal during pressing and will slow even more as the residual free moisture is released. The form should show tears of whey weeping from the form very slowly. When this stops you can increase the weight slightly. The cheese should be removed from the press, unwrapped, turned, rewrapped, and put back to the press at the above intervals. To assure an even consolidation. At each turn you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.

As the cheese curds begin to consolidate with each turn in the press, the beauty of this cheese becomes apparent. As seen below

Finishing and Aging:

The cheese can now be waxed for aging. For details on waxing, please click here.

The cheese can then be placed into your aging space at 52-56F and 80-85% moisture.
The cheese can now be aged for 2-4 months and it will be ready for your table.




More Recipes

Jim Wallace
June 2015


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