You know how it is when you've been going hard just about 24/7, and then you suddenly have a snippet of time off, which you are supposed to use for relaxing, but somehow you just can't seem to stop? That's what happened to me on Saturday. I was exhausted, glued to the couch, and yet my mind was all over the place. I woke up, for some weird reason, with brie cheese on my mind. How to make it?
The internet just didn't seem to provide the answers I wanted. I wasn't prepared to shell out sixty bucks for a brie making kit, or even twenty bucks for fancy cultures and so on. I just wanted to make some brie. I didn't find quite what I was looking for, but Fankhauser's recipe for blue cheese uses a bit of existing cheese to create the mould, rather than buying mould spores, and he mentioned that apparently you could do this with brie, though he hadn't tried it. Since we had a bit of brie in the fridge, I thought I'd give it a burl. I dragged myself off the couch and got to it - I was far too restless to sit still all day.
Fankhauser blends his existing cheese with water and spreads it over the top of the cheese. I was going to do this with the brie - but at the last minute I thought I'd just chuck some in with the yoghurt on the offchance that it would breed that way, to increase my chances of success. After shaping my curds in the basket for 24 hours, I was about the blend some old brie with water and smear it on, when I thought I'd check - I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the beginnings of some white bloom! So I didn't bother with the blend - just waited a bit more to see what would happen.
My worry has been that because I had broken chunks of brie in the cheese, rather than blending it, the mould would occur in spots, but not spread easily. This morning my fears were allayed - it actually has an almost-even coating of white. Yeah! I'm so excited about my brie success, it's a bit ridiculous. Paula tells me there's no point getting excited till I actually eat some, but I reckon the hardest part is getting the mould to grow, and once it's proliferating, well, we're home free. All will be revealed in another two and a half weeks when I eat some.
For the record, and for anyone else who wants to make brie cheese without buying a whole lot of stuff, here's what I did: (the only fancy equipment you need is rennet, cheese cloths, and something to shape the brie)
- Warm 2 litres of unhomogenised milk to 40 degrees. You don't need a thermometer - when it's hot enough you can put your (clean!) little finger in and it feels almost too hot to touch, but you can just manage to leave it in to count to ten.
- Add some yoghurt - I used about two heaped dessertspoons. Take a piece of brie that you like, about a teaspoonful, and break it into little pieces and add that too.
- Wrap the pot in a doona and leave it for an hour or two for the yoghurt and brie cultures to grow.
- Mix 3 drops of rennet in a little water (about a quarter of a cup), then stir it into the milk mixture and wrap it up again in the doona. Leave it for an hour for the rennet to set the milk.
- Use a long sharp knife to cut the jelly into curds, about an inch square. Tip the whole thing into a colander lined with cheesecloth, then pull up the corners of the cloth, tie them into a knot, hang, and let it drain overnight.
- The next day, put a fresh cheesecloth into a cheese basket or bamboo steamer that's about 10cm diameter, tip half the curds into it, sprinkle on a teaspoon of sea salt, and then spread the other half of the curds on top. Wrap up with the cloth and press the curds into the shape of the basket/steamer.
- Leave it out for a week, checking and turning the cheese over every day. It should grow a white bloom on the surface. Don't change the cloth, as the bloom flourishes in damp conditions. Ideally the temperature should be about twenty degrees celsius, and you want it a bit humid. I put ours in the bathroom, but it's possible the damp cloth would be enough.
- After that wrap it in waxed paper and put it into the fridge for another two or three weeks - the inside should turn soft and creamy. Leave it too long and it'll turn to a soup - so check it regularly.
Of course, now I'm itching to try this technique with other cheeses. Can you really just add a chunk of any cheese that you like to grow that flavour and texture? It probably also depends on getting the right temperature and moisture for the particular pathogens you're dealing with - that could be a bit hit and miss if you don't know what you're doing. Still - I'll try it. Next on the list is goat's cheese, and I've even heard a rumour that a friend of Paula's may be able to get fresh goat's milk from her father's farm.