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Up until now I’ve been using basic DVI (Direct Vat Innoculation) starter to make all my cheeses, however as I research more it seems more important to use real starter.

The fundamental purpose of a starter is to convert the lactose present in milk into lactic acid.

However, they are also responsible for degrading the components of milk which later result in much of the flavour complexity in finished cheese.

I found this cheese starter culture available from Goat Nutrition, which contains 4 separate strains of starter bacteria:

  1. Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis: generic strain, responsible for most of the lactose to lactic acid conversion
  2. Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris: flavour production
  3. Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis biovar. diacetylactis: flavour production
  4. Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris: flavour production

After reading the instructions, finding a suitable pan and glass jar, I’m ready to start the starter!

First, heat the milk – in this case raw organic pedigree Ayrshire, which will be used for Cheddar making tomorrow – to 90C for 10 minutes.

Heating the milk

Heating the milk

90C for 10 minutes

90C for 10 minutes

Once sterilized, cool rapidly to 20C by placing in a sink full of cold running water.

Cooling rapidly

Cooling rapidly

Add the contents of the freeze dried culture packet, and whisk vigorously.

Freeze dried starter

Freeze dried starter

Whisking starter bacteria into milk

Whisking starter bacteria into milk

Quickly pour the milk into a sterilized glass jar.

Pouring into glass jar

Pouring into glass jar

Immediately cover with cling film to minimize airborne bacteria getting into the jar, and seal.

Covering with cling film

Covering with cling film

Sealing jar

Sealing jar

Incubate the starter at 20-22C for 22-24 hours.

Incubated starter

Incubated starter

After this time, the starter should smell clean and acidic, at around 0.85% lactic acid.

If you’re just making cheese at home, it’s unlikely that you’ll need an entire litre of starter for your cheese, so the remainder can be frozen in food portioners for future makes, and for propagating the starter later.

Propagation involves exactly the same steps as above, except in place of the freeze dried culture, a sample of the mother culture (i.e. a frozen portion of starter) is added.

I’ll be using this to make some cheddar tomorrow, and am very excited to see how it turns out!

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