Rural Brazil – Curing Cheese

How to cure fresh cheese

I’m not sure if it is just because I live very far from stores, or really anything for that matter, or if it is really because this is something I like to do, but I try to make as much as I possibly can at home. Whether it be, jam, tomato sauce, bread, granola, soap or cheese, you can be pretty sure that I make it on a regular basis here on my farm. There is no question that I enjoy making my own things. I make bread on a bi-weekly basis and I love it. There is nothing better than digging into a fresh homemade loaf of bread. The same goes for jam. Sounds silly, but I often find that what I make at home tastes so much better than anything I can buy at the store.

So, after almost a year of buying fresh cheese from my neighbor, my husband thought it was time that we tried to cure some of the fresh cheese and see if we could diversify our cheeses at home (we had basically just been eating fresh cheese for months). I bought a couple of cheeses and put them in a cheese mold on a plate and left them to sit for several weeks. For the first week I had to remove the whey that accumulated on the plate everyday. I also turned the cheeses daily. After a week most of the whey had been released from the cheese. I left the cheese for about another 2 to 3 weeks, turning it every few days. Once the cheese had developed a nice protective crust I removed it from the cheese mold so that it had more access to air and could dry a little quicker.

At some point, about 3 weeks after we began the curing process, my husband and I decided it was time to try the cheese. It was absolutely amazing. The flavor was rich, it was not too hard and was perfect for eating with toast, on crackers or using in pão de queijo.

We were onto something with our cheese curing and so began my mania of trying to find the perfect way to cure cheese.

I tried soaking the fresh cheeses in a brine of approximately 50% water and 50% salt. I left some cheeses for 24 hours in the brine and others for almost a week. After soaking in the brine I left the cheeses on plates to cure. Some of the cheeses I weighed down with a stone cheese weight to try to press out as much liquid as possible, others I didn’t weigh down. With some cheeses I covered the outside with salt instead of doing a brine. The length of time I left the cheeses to cure varied and I wasn’t very diligent at recording the lengths of time that the cheeses sat curing.

I had a whole variety of results. The cheeses that I weighed down became very dry, I even had one that turned into a perfect parmasan. The cheeses that I took out less water from were tastier and much moister. Some accidents occured, giving some of the best results! One of these accidents consisted of me forgetting a cheese in my refrigerator for almost more than a month. When I found it, it had turned into a cream. My husband and I decided to try it as we didn’t want to throw it out. It was a delicious spreadable cheese.

We have tried to recreate that accident with some success!

My final conclusion on curing cheese has been to scrap the brining process and placing weights on the cheeses to remove as much liquid. Instead, as soon as I bring home my fresh cheeses (they are usually no more than 24 hours old when I buy them from my neighbor) I place them on plates. I  remove all the whey from the plates each day and turn the cheeses. This usually lasts about a week. Then, once the cheeses have developed a little crust I move them onto a rack and let them cure for 3 to 4 weeks, turning them every few days.

After about a week of curing the cheeses can be eaten. They will still be relatively soft, but the flavor will already be much richer than a fresh cheese. I like to leave my cheese cure for much longer as I like a harder cheese. But, sometimes I eat them quicker……

I now always have at leat two cheeses curing on my kitchen shelf. I usually eat the cured cheeses on toast or crackers. But, I also use them in baking!

 

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