Group D Data: Cheese (Week 3)


Data summary from Lab Group D for Week 3 Lab: Cheesemaking.

Group 3 members: Will Brewster, Dylan Fox-Arnold, Isabel Rameker, and Ellie Simon.

Procedure Part 1:

Outside temperature: 81°F

Location: Mai Fete Island (Carleton College, Northfield, MN)

Initial weight of milk: 8 lb 10.2 oz (~1 gallon)

The first steps of our lab went fairly smoothly. First, Ellie dissolved the rennet tablet in 1/4 cup of water, pouring it into the gallon of milk that had been poured into the cast-iron pot. Next, Will stirred the pot’s contents in order to even out the distribution of our rennet solution across all of the milk. Next, we measured out 1/4 cup of vinegar and combined it with 2 cups of water, then poured this solution into the cast-iron pot while stirring constantly. There is not much qualitative or quantitative data for this phase of the production process. It is potentially worth noting that our milk (pasteurized) came from two separate farms (one half-gallon each).

Timeline of Part I Process:

1 gallon of milk (with 1/4 cup vinegar, rennet tablet, and 2.25 cups of water mixed in) set over a wood-burning fire in a cast-iron pot.1:29 PM
A slight spill of milk while adjusting the pot’s position over the fire.1:33 PM
Pot thermometer reading: 80°F1:35 PM
Pot thermometer reading: 90°F; milk taken off of the fire.
Beginning of 20-minute waiting period.
1:37 PM
Pot thermometer reading: 90°F1:42 PM
Pot thermometer reading: 90°F1:47 PM
Pot thermometer reading: 90°F1:52 PM
Pot thermometer reading: 90°F
No curds after 20 minutes.
1:57 PM
Pot thermometer reading: 90°F2:02 PM
Pot thermometer reading: 90°F
Curds present!
2:07 PM
Cutting curds into ~2cm squares with knife. Light stirring with wooden spoon.2:11 PM
Slight temperature decrease (~87°F), so pot was set back over the fire.
Beginning of the second waiting period (15 minutes).
2:13 PM
Light stirring.2:15 PM
Pot thermometer reading: 90°F; pot removed from the fire.2:16 PM
Light stirring.2:19 PM
Light stirring.2:24 PM
Light stirring.
End of 15 minutes; pouring pot contents into colander/cheesecloth.
Separation of curds from whey (curds into cheesecloth, whey into whey container bin).
2:28 PM
Strained curds begin to sit for 30 minutes to finish draining the residual whey.2:29 PM
Curds wrapped in cheesecloth. Curds squeezed over whey-collecting bucket to remove residual whey.3:00 PM
Finished squeezing curds; separation of curds from whey complete.
Curd Weight: 1 lb 3.5 oz
Whey Weight: 8 lb 3.1 oz
3:12 PM

Additional Observations from Curdling Period:

  • Like many of the other groups, our milk took approximately 30 minutes to curdle (10 minutes longer than the expected time of 20 minutes). The cause of this discrepancy is unclear.
  • We found that the windy conditions on Mai Fete Island blew lots of debris (dirt, small sticks, etc.) into our open pot. This might indicate a potential advantage of the windless conditions inside a mitato in the cheesemaking process.
  • The heat retention of the iron pot was impressive – it maintained our milk temperature at 90°F for over half an hour after being taken off of the fire.
  • As we waited for the milk to curdle, a thin layer of film developed over the milk. This made the milk’s appearance seem more solid/gelatinous.
  • There was a great deal of sitting/waiting time during the initial curdling period and the straining period. In a group setting, this meant a great deal of time during this portion of the lab was spent enjoying the nice weather and socializing. Periods of work were often intense and time-sensitive, but these waiting-around periods actually occupied most of our time.
  • While squeezing the curds, some were lost through gaps in the cheese cloth.
Will testing that our milk had successfully curdled after 30-minute waiting period – “clean break” of curds

Procedure Part II: Mozzarella

Next, we began the process of making mozarella. Our group made the mistake of removing our fully-separated curds from our cheesecloth – in doing so, we lost a small amount of curds in the process. Additionally, this may have negatively impacted the cohesiveness of our curds. At the beginning of the mozzarella-making process, we had 14.0 oz of curds. Of this total amount, we set aside 1.4 oz (10%) for our whey-cheese, leaving us with 12.6 oz of curds for the mozzarella. Prior to placing the curds in 150°F water, we compressed our curds as much as we could. These curds, however, did not stay together well and were fairly crumbly to the touch.

Timeline of Mozarella:

Placing compressed curds into 150°F water.3:37 PM
Attempts to stretch and knead the mozarella after removing it from the water.3:42 PM
Placing mozzarella back into hot water for one additional minute3:45 PM
Removing mozzarella from hot water3:46 PM
Letting mozzarella rest in salt bath3:47 PM

Like our crumbly whey, our final product did not stay together well. Our cheese also failed to properly stretch after spending five minutes in the pot. In terms of in-mouth texture, our cheese was chewy and fairly bland – overall, not very delicious at all.

Procedure Part III: Whey Cheese

Initial curd weight: 1.4 oz

Initial whey weight: 9 lb 0.3 oz

Final cheese weight: 0.9 oz

Final whey weight: 8 lb 12 oz

Timeline of whey cheese:

1.4 oz curd added to whey container bin3:24 PM
Whey brought to boil in pot, addition of 1/4 cup of vinegar.3:52 PM
Whey strained through cheesecloth/colander.3:57 PM

Our whey cheese turned out slightly better than did our mozzarella. While there wasn’t a lot of it, there were fewer pieces of debris in the whey cheese – this might be due to the second straining process involved in whey cheese production. In terms of texture, our whey cheese was less stretchy than our mozzarella and had a purer, cleaner taste to it.

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