My own Personal Farm House Natural Cheeses Workshop

Like all great travel escapes in November in Alberta, never fails snow dumps and the next thing you know you’re white knuckling it to the airport driving 30 in 100 zone.  Well “neither rain nor snow, nor sleet nor dark of night shall ..” okay you get the picture.  After missing the first flight a West Jet employee named Jeet got me on a flight to Calgary with connection to Abbottsford.  Although all flights left late, I finally arrive got my little Kia rental and drove to Agassiz to check in for the next day’s events.  In a perfect world I would have arrive soon enough to make 2 days’ worth of cheese.  Thursday, goat, and Friday a washed rind, washed curd cheese, that they call Alpine Gold made from Cows milk.  I spent the day with a fantastic young cheese maker named Jasmine Laurenson.  We sat and she answered all my questions that I’ve had challenges with in my cheese making.  What I’d love to do is a three month internship-man that would be amazing, but not sure who would man the home fires!

During the fall something was wrong with my brine.  After talking to Jasmine she discussed that it is important to test the salinity and the pH.  I have done the pH but never the salinity.  So if I’m making a 10% brine the ph should be 4.9.  Good rule of thumb is to check both at day 3 then day 7, and then weekly.  A small trick is adding a bit of vinegar to the brine to drop the pH.  The other thing I noticed in the fall was that my soft cheeses were more potent, or had more taste or smell than normal.  Which during lactation the pH changes, in the beginning and the end of a lactation cycle; basically more somatic cell bacteria are present.  This means that they can work against your ripening bacteria that you add to the milk while making your cheese.  At this point there are many different factors that become part of the equation but what Jasmine kept reminding me is that good cheese making comes down to the details.  I’m putting the mantra in my head, “it’s in the details!”

So off to making Alpine Gold a washed curd, washed rind cheese.  At Farm House Natural Cheeses their milk fat is tested weekly, so they know that the milk fat percentage is 4.4. So after pasteurization, which interestingly is regulated and monitored, we separated out cream to make milk fat of 3.8.  Now, it’s math but what it came down to is we separated a number of liters of milk, getting 1 liter of cream per 10 liters of milk.  The cream is then put aside and culture is added and it will be made into butter the following day.  Yet another wonderful detail is that they carefully poured the separated milk into a container so that they weren’t introducing air into the milk and so they aren’t breaking up the fat particle(such as homogenization).  So after all of this they added culture, and then let the milk ripen for one hour, maintaining temperature.  Then we added the CaCl2, and then the rennet.  Again we let the milk set and then we cut the curd into ¾ inch cubes.  At this point we removed 10% of the whey –and added back in 10% water bringing the temp up to 33 degrees.  Adding the water lowers the acidity and this will affect the taste and texture.   I found this particularly interesting because sometimes I’ve not been specific with adding the water back in and of course then I was not diluting the acidity enough on my cheese.(This is such great stuff!)  So then we stirred for 10 minutes then let the curd set for a few minutes and then again removed whey again I think it was 10% and added water back in to make it 36.5 degrees.  At this point we where stirring and checking for matting of the curds.  When we were close we tested by taste- and the curd was slightly sweet and sort of stuck to my teeth when chewed.  Whoa done!  Now to drain the whey which when you’re making 700 liters takes a while and we filled molds.  This took quite a while because we filled all the molds then went back and refilled and this was really important because if your mold is too full on one and not full enough on another you will have different sized cheeses in your press.  So we ended up with 48 molds filled and they make about 2kg blocks and you dress and do a light press and then redress and press overnight.  Next day you brine for 8 hours-turning evenly so that it’s equal on each side and dry for 24 hours.  This cheese will store at 10-12 degrees and age for at least 4 weeks but magic numbers like 8-10 seem to keep in my mind.  Every 2-3 days wash the rind with a 3% salt solution starting with oldest (from a previous batch) to youngest to promote orange growth.

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So there you have it- a very detailed and wonderful washed rind, washed curd cheese.  A big Thank You to everyone at Farm House Fresh Natural Cheeses, you are such hard workers and are full of fantastic information.  They also offer workshops – inquire at their website, well worth the trip.  Also try their cheese to order, Fermiere and Farm House Blue are only two of my favorites.


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