FREE SHIPPING | orders over $45 within the USA, applies at checkout

Esrom Cheese
The perfect picnic cheese for summer


There is a good chance that you may have never heard of, or tasted, the Esrom Cheese from Denmark but that is about to change.

If you like a soft buttery cheese with a bit of character, then this would be the one for your next picnic basket, or any day on the table for that matter. It's the kind of cheese that just seems to disappear when you put it out. This is one that will go fabulously with a nice Euro style lager (Sorry Bud!) or even a darker style bock beer.

Esrom is not a new cheese and has its roots in the monastic communities of Europe many years ago.


This is a cheese I remember fondly from my earlier years. When my sister and I would come home to visit after college, Saturday lunch was always about cheese, and since my dad was the one responsible for that stinky quadruple wrapped (thank you Mom!) Limburger in the back of the fridge, we had to come up with a good compromise. It was the Esrom that kept the peace!
We all loved its soft texture and warm milky flavor plus the gentle aroma from the rind.

What is Esrom like:

Esrom is made in varying formats from 47-57% fat (measured only as dry matter after discounting moisture). This will give us the option of making it from a range of milks.
The cheese has a thin, supple, yellow to yellowy-orange edible rind with a clean, almost dry, thin and uniform yellowish brown to reddish brown outer skin.
The Smell is mild, acidic, aromatic with hints of surface ripening. This aromatic from the surface ripening can become dominant as the cheese ages.

Esrom can range from very mild to a cheese with attitude. It can be ready as early as 2 weeks and is rather mild when young (4 weeks) but it can get quite pungent with age (months of aging). Much of the aromatic aspect can be controlled by how much of the washed rind is developed.

The History of Esrom:

Esrom is a trappist-style traditional, creamy, semi-soft cheese made from cows milk. The cheese is named after an abbey where Cistercian monks first made it in the 12th century near the village of the same name. The recipe was rediscovered in the 1930s and since then has achieved quite a bit of popularity.

The cheese was developed by the monks of Esrom Monastery. In 1140, the Benedictine monks tried to run an abbey at Esrom in northern Denmark. They failed and the French took over the buildings leaving the monks to produce cheese under French rule. The Abbey was very prosperous and came to own much land, until the Reformation came to Denmark in 1536. In 1559, the monks were pushed out of the Abbey and the cheese ended with the departure of the monks.

It was then revived again by the National Experimental Dairy in the mid-1930s. Production started at Midtsjællands Herregårdsmejeri
and later at other dairies. During the wars it disappeared for awhile but was revived again with the new name of Esrom in 1952.

A Recipe for making Esrom

This is a cheese challenge that should only be taken on by those who have already made a few cheeses and have become familiar with the basics of cheese making.
It will introduce the details of making a washed rind, where we build a biological defense from the good guys to fend off bad molds that just want to build their homes on this cheese. Yes, the stinky cheese program but do know that this character comes in mild medium and strong and you can control that with aging time and process.

The guideline I have prepared for this cheese is for a 4 gallon batch. If you would like to make a smaller 2 gallon batch reduce the ingredients by half and follow the press schedule for the 2 gallon batch in the press section.

Before you Begin:

You will need:

  • 4 gallon of milk (Not UltraPasteurized) .. use either 2% or whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp of either AromaB or FloraDanica (these are both a blend of acidifying and aromatic cultures)
  • plus a pinch(1/64tsp) of both Geotrichum and B.linens culture for the rind development
  • Single strength Liquid Rennet (3.4 ml or slightly less than 3/4tsp)
  • Salt
  • An accurate thermometer
  • A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds with.
  • LargeTomme Mold with follower for the 4 gallon cheese and our SmallMold-M3 if making 2 gallons
  • Butter muslin for draining in the mold
  • A Cheese Press or weights to apply sufficient weight for consolidation of the curds.
  • Calcium Chloride for pasteurized cold stored milk
  • A saturated brine

Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.

Acidifying and heating the milk:

Begin by heating the milk to 76F. I know some of you will be surprised at this lower temperature, however some of the culture (one of the aroma producers) has a lower optimum working temperature. You can best heat the milk by placing the milk pot into another 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 76F 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 now needs to be kept at 76F for about 60 minutes (best for the aromatics).
Then raise the temperature to 88F and hold for another 30 minutes. This will be optimum for the acidifying bacteria. Total time for the ripening phase is 90 minutes.
Hold the milk with culture quiet to allow the culture to begin doing its work. It will be very slow initially but will soon kick into its more rapid rate of converting lactose to lactic acid.

During this ripening time is a good point to make sure you have sanitized the mold and cloth for the final curd pressing if you have not done it already.

Coagulation with rennet:

Then add 3.4 ml or slightly less than 3/4tsp 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. 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.

You should notice the milk beginning to thicken (flocculation point) at about 12 -15 minutes but do allow it to sit quiet the full 30 minutes to form a firm curd. If the curd is not firm at this point, then allow it to rest a bit longer until it tests for the firm curd (splits cleanly).

Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

Once the curd has formed well it its time to cut it to about 3/8"pieces (about chickpea in size) .

Do this by cross cutting vertically with a long knife ending with a good checkerboard pattern and then using a flat ladle or spoon make the horizontal cuts.

Cut slowly and evenly to avoid excess breakage. When done allow the cut curds to sit quiet for about 5 minutes to allow the curds to firm.

Then stir gently for another 5 minutes to make sure the curds are well separated. Gentle is the key here. A simple bottom to top motion is good.

Cooking the curds :

You can now begin drying out the curds. This will be done by increasing the heat slowly to 95F.

Since the character of this cheese is on the sweet side you will do this by using the Washed Curd Process:

  • Remove about 30% of the milk volume in whey. This will be removing some of the sugar supply for the bacteria and cause them to produce less acid.


Removing 30% of whey slows the culture by removing part of its food supply

  • Then add back enough water (Non-chlorinated) at ~120F to raise the temperature to 95F over the next 15 minutes to slowly heat the milk. This will heat the curds to the higher end of their working range, thus slowing down the acid production. It will also increase the flow of whey out of the curd ... drying them further.


Adding back warm water to heat the curds and dry them further.

  • Continue to stir gently for another 15-30 minutes until the curds show the proper dryness. This will become apparent as the curd mass becomes less 'spongy' in the hand and the curds show a tendency to separate easily when squeezed..

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.

Removing the whey and molding the cheese:

At this point the curds should test dry enough. Stop the stirring and allow them to sink to the bottom of the pot.
The next step is to remove the whey from the top of the curds, leaving about 1" of whey above the curds.

Then give the curds a good stir to make sure they are well separated. This little bit of whey will help the curds float into a nice tight formation in the mold.

Line the mold with the cloth for draining and transfer the curds to the form. Use a firm hand pressure to consolidate as you transfer.


Draining the whey in preparation for molding the curds.

At this point the process has only taken about 4.5-5 hours from adding culture but the culture has not fully done its work. It is still a very sweet curd/cheese because you have slowed the bacteria down with the whey removal and short stirring time so it now needs the time while in press to continue the acid development.

The curd should now be at its proper moisture level and ready to be transferred to the mold. The small amount of whey transferred with the curds will help the curds flow into place as you fill the mold. As the whey drains the curds will move into a more consolidated position.


filling the mold with curds ... allow the whey to freely escape as you fill the mold.

As you transfer the curds to the mold stir the curds with your hand to assist the whey draining and help the curds form into a tight mass. A little hand pressure can also help in this. Once the whey has drained and the curd mass is nice and compact, fold the cloth over the top neatly and you are ready to place the follower on top and begin to press

.
Final preparations in form and ready for Press.

Pressing:

Ffor pressing we should begin very light and slowly increase the press weight to a moderate level.

For the 4 gallon cheese:

  • 15 minutes at 8 lbs.
  • 30 minutes at 25 lbs.
  • 60 minutes at 50 lbs
  • 5 hours at 75 lbs.

For a 2 gallon batch

  • 30 minutes at 8 lbs.
  • 30 minutes at 25 lbs.
  • 60 minutes at 50 lbs

The rate of whey running off begins as a matter of drops or a very thin 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.


The finished cheese. Note the nice tight surface resulting from a proper pressing.
This will make it a lot easier to finish the washing of the cheese.

Salting:

You should 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 weighs about 5.5-5.75 lbs. and needs to be set in thebrine for about 11-12 hours (about 2 hrs per pound).
The cheese will float above the brine surface so sprinkle another teaspoon or 2 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 or two before moving to the aging space. The surface will darken somewhat during this time.


The cheese in salt brine (note the salt on the surface)
and then set to air dry for a day or so
before moving to the moist aging space for 4-5 days for the salt to stabilize.

Aging:

The aging of this cheese follows the process for a washed rind cheese but this will be developed only for a short time and then washed away. This will give the cheese a warm nutty flavor. You may see this referred to as a washed rind or smear ripened cheese depending on the surface moisture control of the cheese.

The cheese should be placed into your aging space at 52-56F and 87-92% moisture. Rest the cheese on a mat that allows a little air flow underneath
For the washed rind, your objective is a cheese surface that is neither wet nor dry. It should feel a bit dampish and perhaps even a little 'tacky'. Swampy is not what we want here. Make sure you turn the cheese daily


to maintain the higher moisture use a covered plastic container as shown in these two pics
The higher moisture of the cheese should maintain the moisture level.

At about day 2-4 you should notice a definite slippery or greasy nature to your rind. This is a complex of natural yeast populating the surface and you should notice a definite yeasty or fruity smell to it.
Then at about day 5-6 days from making, you should notice a slight dusting of white mold beginning to form (you may really need to look at the surface to see it). This is the geotrichum community developing shown at the right here.

Within a few days more you mays see the first of other unwanted molds shown below. This is where the salt wash comes in for control.

When you see the white mold first forming, make up your wash from 1 cup of boiled non-chlorinated water and a tablespoon of salt. This should give you about 6% salt in your washing brine. You may also add a pinch of b.linens and geotrichum for the rind growth just as added insurance. I did have you add it to the milk originally as well.


The first signs of geotrichum growth . Note how easily it cane be wiped down.
Shortly after this other ambient molds will try to take over.
The control of choice will be a light salt wash to select for the competitive molds we encourage.

Washing:

  1. The next day dampen a clean sanitized cloth with this brine and wipe ONLY the top surface and sides. This will spread, the growing molds around, moisten the cheese surface with your light brine to provide the salt which will discourage unwanted molds (blues, mucor, etc).
  2. Return the cheese to the aging space keeping the washed side up. If the surface seems a bit dry improve the moisture in your aging space or if too dry reduce it .
  3. On the next day turn the cheese and repeat the same above with the new unwashed surface.
  4. Allow the cheese to rest again with only daily turnings.
  5. You should again see the white mold coming again in 2-3 days.
    Repeat steps 1-4 again when you see this.


setting up for the first wash


a light wipe should remove any mold
plus encourage the good bacteria/molds to do their good work.


here we have another series of smaller washed rind cheeses ..
note the color beginning to develop

At about 2 weeks you will begin to notice a slight rosy to orange color on the surface. This is a sign that the process is going well.

The picture at left shows another cheese from the cave here with a full rosy surface. This is a Raclette that has undergone the washed rind treatment and now needs another month or so to be ready. The complex bacteria/mold surface will not only keep other unwanted molds at bay but will provide a rather aromatic (in a good way) quality that enhances the cheese.
At this point the washing only needs to be done again when an unwanted mold appears. Do not allow this rind to become too moist (excessively sticky or swampy) or too dry. If too dry you may find that the surface may crack, scale, or even begin to exfoliate or lift.

The cheese can now be aged for 4-6 weeks and it will be ready for your table (longer for a stronger cheese).

The amount of washing of the rind, the temperature, moisture control, and the amount of aging time will determine how much character the cheese develops.
If you would like a mild cheese, keep the aging short and be more aggressive at washing the developing rind away when washing. Try to keep the rind thin.
If you want your cheese to have a lot of character, then longer aging and developing a good healthy rind are the way to go.

April 9 2016 Beyond the Basics -- Sold Out
June 11 2016 Beyond the Basics

Jim Wallace has been our technical resource for a number of years now, teaching and answering our technical questions. He is also the person who researches, develops, and writes our recipe pages every month. He is an expert photographer, a great teacher and a wealth of knowledge.

For a more hands on and personalized experience in cheese making, Jim Wallace our Technical Guru offers several workshops at various levels to answer your questions. Each workshop is designed to work through the process of making 3 very different cheeses to explore as many phases of cheese making process as possible in the 2 day sessions. You will gain the knowledge & experience to apply not only to the cheeses made during the session but to many other cheeses in the future. This is because the study approach is the Why and How of the many individual concepts in each process and not just a set of instructions or written recipes.

His years of experience in working with cheese makers both here and in Europe plus his many years at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese (VIAC) program at University of Vermont will prove to be a helpful resource for you to move your cheese making to the next level

The workshops are kept small to provide time for everyones questions.

Imagine spending the weekend with a group of other cheese makers from all over having wonderful lunches together w/ plenty of cheese to taste. At the same time immersing yourself in the cheese process while getting all of your questions answered.

Anyone that has been here will agree that it is possible to have 'Uber' Fun while learning a lot.

More Recipes
Jim Wallace
April 2016

Share With Friends:

You May Also Like: