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After a full 16 days of maturing, it was about time to crack open the results of my Rennet Quantity Experiments!

So last Thursday evening, accompanied by a couple of drinks, I sat down with Tim of Franklins Restaurant and Duncan of The Lido Cafe and other assorted volunteers (including Kate and others at Green & Blue later in the evening) to see what difference 0.005% makes!

Before the carnage

Before the carnage

From top right moving down and across: 0.020% (cut open), 0.025%, 0.030%, 0.035%, 0.040%, 0.045%.

The first thing we noticed was the texture – the lower percentage cheeses seemed far softer than the higher percentages.

Upon cutting open the 0.020% cheese, it was immediately obvious that the rind was too thick, at up to half a centimetre in certain places.

I put this down to the fact I’m using extremely small vats, and inoculation with even the tiniest bit of geotrichum candidum, which is designed for thousands of litres of milk.

Also I’m a little bit concerned that my geotrichum candidum might actually be slightly contaminated with penicillium camembertii – having used both in the past, the rind seems to be more thick and leathery than I would expect from a geotrichum only cheese.

Slowly progressing

Slowly progressing

Luckily I managed to get hold of a pen and some paper (or more accurately, the back of Franklin’s wine menu!) to write down some notes before we got too stuck in!

General consensus on the 0.020% cheese was that the rind contributed a bitter, salty flavour, with strong mushroomy overtones.  Removing the rind and tasting only the paste gave a more pleasant texture and taste, with “creamy” being bandied about as a description.

Rather than move through the various quantities, we decided to move straight on to the 0.045%, to get the full contrast between the different levels.

Immediately, it looked, felt and tasted a lot more like a “real” cheese!  Everyone agreed that the taste was far less salty than the previous cheese, although both had exactly the same quantity, applied in the same manner.

Other adjectives – complex, grassy, “challenging” (not sure if this was good or bad!), and brilliantly – “goaty”, even though the cheese had never seen a goat in it’s life!

It wasn’t all good news though, there were some discussions of a lingering bitter aftertaste, and the rind was still quite thick, although it was less salty than the 0.020% cheese.

Getting stuck in!

Getting stuck in!

Moving logically on to the 0.035% cheese, we found the bitterness had disappeared, and the cheese was described as “fresher”, although “not as complex” as the previous 0.045%.

The paste and rind was nowhere near as salty as the 0.020%, however the rind was still quite thick and exhibited a light mushroomy smell.

It was obvious that the perfect point lay somewhere towards the top end of the rennet quantities, so we moved on to the 0.040% cheese and found a wonderfully textured cheese, with a citrus tang to it, as well as (bizarrely!) lingering goat flavours.

0.040% ended up being almost everyone’s favourite, and seemed to be the overall winner – this is great news for my future makes, as it means I can speed up the initial coagulation to around 120 minutes, down from my usual 3 hours plus!

Thanks again to Tim, Duncan, Kate and everyone who helped dissect the flavours, it’s definitely easier and more enlightening than doing it on your own!