Group A Data: Week Three: cheese

Group A members: Helen, Em, Ben, Amelie

First set of steps:

Initial weight of milk: 8 lbs 8.4 oz for one gallon of milk

There was fairly little data here, we followed the steps on the lab manual. We did notice that a good number of sticks and dirt blew into the milk which made the milk/cheese seem unappetizing but we pressed on. This, we thought, would help explain the desire for the huts that we discussed earlier in the week that seemed to cramped. We also noted that the milk had some cream on the top which, as we were pouring it in, made it seem chunky which we were not used to but assumedly shepherds would have been.

Second Set of steps

Here we also did not have a lot of quantitative data but we did have some observations of how the milk was changing as we waited after adding the rennet.

  • after 5 minutes we started noticing that it seemed a bit more gelatinous and that the surface was no longer moving as much due to the wind which seemed to indicate more surface tension, though Ben remained certain that it seemed unchanged (spoilers: he ended up being right)
  • after about 14 minutes we noticed that the surface had begun to appear wrinkly
  • after 16 minutes we noticed the temperature of the milk go up which seemed odd but we figured it was simply due to the cast iron dutch oven and the fact that the wind seemed to have gone down for a moment.
  • We also noted that this was a fairly long time to not be doing much as Ben tried to start dueling people with oven mitts

Unfortunately we did not get a “clean cut” of our curds on this attempt and so we had to throw it out and start over when we got a chance later. Here is Em dumping out the “cheese” and then a picture of it. Ben tried it and said it “tastes kind of funny.”

dumping out the curds
our curds on the ground. hopefully an animal will enjoy them

We figure that we might have tried to do the “clean cut” too soon, as other groups had more success waiting 30 minutes instead of 20 as did we later, or that we had not fully incorporated the cream that had separated which had messed it up.


Nothing really changed for the retakes here. Our milk weighed the same and we completed teh exact same steps. We stirred more vigorously before and while adding the vinegar to try to make sure everything was incorporated and waited 30 minutes after adding the rennet and that seemed to work better.

Us testing our curds and getting a clean break!

Here is a brief timeline of our second attempt up to this point and a little beyond:

  • We began at 2:23 pm
  • We mixed the vinegar and milk at 2:23 pm
  • We put the milk on the fire at 2:24 pm(We were well practiced at these steps from our first attempt)
  • At 2:36 pm our milk was at 90 degrees and we added the rennet and water mixture
  • We had finished combining the two and took the pot off the fire at 2:37 pm
  • We tested the curds at 3:07 pm
  • We finished cutting the curds at 3:08 pm
  • At 3:23 pm we poured out curds into out cheesecloth and strainer over our whey bucket

At this point we diverged from the directions. We were pressed for time and so we asked Jake and got permission to skip the 30 minute wait time to allow the curds and whey to separate. This felt risky but I feel it paid off. This allowed us to go right into squeezing the curds, but it took a bit longer than other groups because their curds had already drained some. We began at 3:26pm and finished at 3:37pm meaning we waited about 3 minutes between pouring the whey and curds in and beginning squeezing. The whey squirted out of the cheese cloth in streams at times due to the intensity of the squeezing and ended up getting on us, our shoes, and some of our notebooks.

Em and Ben squeezing the curds

We then moved to measuring our whey and curds. To measure both the volume and the weight of the whey we first zeroed the scale with an extra bucket on it and then used our 2 cup measuring cup to measure the whey one scoop at a time into the other bucket. We ended up with 133.1 oz of whey and exactly 15 cups.

To measure the curds we first weighed them in the cheesecloth and then took them out and weighed the cheesecloth. We ended up with 11.7 oz of curds. We initially set 2.7 oz aside for making whey cheese (~23.08%), but, since we were running low on time, Jake told us that we were only going to get to make mozzarella and so we reincorporated them back in. We then formed our curds into a ball and cut them into slices. Jake remarked here that our curds were “beautiful” and “the best he’d seen today.”

our curds in a ball
em with the curds
our curds all sliced and ready

The timeline of these events and the following ones are as follows:

  • at 3:38 pm we weighed the curds and cheesecloth
  • at 3:38 pm we began weighing and measuring the whey while other group members began forming the curds into a ball
  • at 3:40 pm we had finished weighing the whey and the curds were in a ball
  • at 3:43 pm we had eyeballed a quarter of the curds (actually about 23%) for whey cheese and then cut the rest into slices
  • at 3:52 pm while waiting for an open pot to make our curds into mozzarella we dumped out our whey
  • at 4:04 pm we added our sliced curds to 150 degree water that had already been used so it was partially whey and curds already
  • at 4:09 pm we pulled the curds out to stretch and kneed them and then put them back in for a minute
  • at 4:11 pm we then pulled them back out and formed them into a rectangle and then a ball and put them in our salt bath (made up of 92.1 oz of water and a little over 1/4 cup of salt as we had an accident with the salt and it spilled into the water meaning we got a fairly small unmeasured amount but it was for sure under 1/2 cup of salt)
  • at 4:16 pm we took the cheese out of the salt bath to weigh it (we ended up with 9.3 oz of cheese) and try it

observations about the cheese: We found the cheese to be very squeaky, as expected from the results of other groups. We also were a little disturbed by the amount of dirt in the cheese. This dirt got in despite our best efforts and is mostly due to it being rather windy today but it was still unfortunate. We also wished the cheese was saltier, but that might be due to either us putting it into the salty water as one whole ball and there being less surface area because of this or because we were rushed to try it since we had to clean up and so we didn’t leave it in the bath very long.

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