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Salt Brining Cheese

The primary reason for salting cheese is to slow down or stop the bacteria process of converting lactose to lactic acid. During the brine process, most of the lactose is removed. If the cheese were not salted, the residual moisture contains enough lactose to produce more acid than is ideal for a proper curd ripening. The secondary purpose is for the cheese flavor.
Salting of the cheese will also pull moisture from the surface and begin forming the rind of the cheese. This will also tend to inhibit the growth of many molds.

How do I brine my Cheese ?

  • When do we salt ?
    When the final pressing has been completed the cheese is moved to a cool cave to stabilize it's temperature to that of the brine. Brining a warm cheese will increase the rate of salt absorption and cause over salting.
    Prepare your brine or, if you have been storing a good brine, simply pour this into a non reactive pan.
    A simple brine formula is :
  • - 1 Gallon of water to which is added 2 Lbs of Salt, 1tbs. Calcium Chloride (30% solution), and 1 tsp. white vinegar.
  • This will result in saturated brine at 5.2 pH, suitable for most cheeses.

    Place the cheese into the brine. The density of the brine will cause the cheese to float, which will result in the surface of the cheese rising out of the brine. This means the surface of your cheese will not get salted during the brine process like the bulk of your cheese. To remedy this, simply toss a small amount of salt on the surface of your cheese. This will cause your cheese surface to form its own brine due to surface moisture.
  • How long should cheese be brined for ?
    Cheeses of different densities and shapes will require varying times in the brine. A general rule is 1 hour per lb. per each 1 inch thickness of cheese. A very dense low moisture cheese such as Parma will need more time than a moist open texture cheese.
  • How should the cheese be handled after brining ?
    Once a cheese has been brined, it should be drained and allowed to air dry, while turning, for a day or so. Once a dry firm surface is observed, the cheese is then ready for waxing or the development of natural rinds.

What details are involved in salting with a brine ?

  • What is enough salt ?
    The brine is usually made up to a saturated strength. This means adding salt until the salt no longer dissolves when added.
  • How do we replenish the salt ?
    When adding fresh cheese to a brine, always make sure to sprinkle a good amount of salt on the surface of the floating cheese.
  • What else does the brine need to be ideal?
    ...Brine should be kept to as cool a temperature as possible. Most folks keep it at 52-54F and store it in the cave area to keep cool.
    ...It should also be stabilized at an acid level similar to the cheese being salted. This is usually in the pH 5.4-4.9 range.
    ... Fresh brine needs to have Calcium added because low Ca in the brine will cause the Ca inside the cheese (responsible for binding the proteins) to be pulled into the brine. This will in time cause a weakening of the curd structure and a softening of the rind.

    When making fresh brine, I usually add about a cup of clear whey to each gallon of brine (for the calcium it contains) and as much salt as will dissolve, then just a bit more to see that it is saturated. This will be about 23% at the cave temps. I then add a bit of citric acid to reach my target pH (that of the cheese being brined).
  • How long will the brine keep?
    I keep my brine here for a year or two. If it gets moldy or starts looking somewhat bad, I simply bring it to a boil and refilter it.
    Dumping this heavy load of salt down the drain is hard on the water treatment system. I feel that a good brine gets better with time. In Italy and France, I see the recirculation and filtering of brine almost everywhere. When asked, some cheese makers say they can not remember changing the brine.
  • How should you manage the brine?
    Most people keep the brine tanks covered and filter it when it looks dirty or cloudy. Others use a system of constant recirculation through filters. I filter mine with cotton balls back into gallon jugs between my small cheese making batches. I do check the brine pH and saturation regularly. The calcium level is not an issue after the first batch or so since some calcium will always be coming out of fresh cheese until an equilibrium is reached between curd and brine. Remember to keep the brine cool because at warmer temperatures some molds will grow (halophillic .. salt tolerant). Also, if the brine saturation drops below 16%, there are many molds that can grow in this. Remember, if you see this happen, just boil and filter the brine and correct the situation.
    I tend to use funnels.

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