Cardoona Cheese Making Recipe
- 2 Gallons of Milk (Not UltraPasteurized)
- 8-12 oz Heavy Cream (optional)
- 1/8 tsp MM 100 Culture
- 5 oz Prepared Bulgarian Yogurt
- 1/64 tsp Geotrichum Candidum
- 1/16 tsp Bacteria Linens
- 2 tsp (10 ml) Thistle Rennet
- Cheese Salt
- 1/2 tsp Calcium Chloride (for pasteurized milk)
- Good Thermometer
- Mini Measuring Spoons
- Curd Knife
- Spoon or Ladle
- Butter Muslin
- 2 Small Tomme Cheese Molds
- 3 lb Weights
- Draining Mat
- Cardoona Cheese Info
- Q & A
Cardoona, a Cheese Made with Flowers
This cheese is very different from any cheese I have made before. It can loosely be classified as a washed rind cheese but there the similarities stop. In using the new rennet from the Cardoon, the ripening of the cheese will be very different because this rennet does not stop working like the Animal rennet does and other vegetable rennets do. It is a much weaker rennet but it just keeps on breaking down the proteins. This can be a surprisingly quick ripening of the cheese.
In a normal washed rind the breakdown of proteins takes place from the surface inwards and mostly from the surface molds. The Cardoon rennet enzymes just keep on working throughout the cheese and the entire body of the cheese breaks down much quicker.
The most unusual aspect however is that the rennet is traditionally used for cheese made from ewes milk or a combination of ewe and goat milk, primarily because the enzymes (quite different from chymosin of traditional rennet) have caused a bitter flavor in the final cheese made from cows milk.
Call me stubborn but, I just had to find out if it could work with cows milk. So began a year or so of testing to get to this one. In the end it has proven to be a fine cheese and one of the first to disappear from my cheese board lately.
This is a great recipe for intermediate - advanced cheese makers who are familiar with proper curd moisture.
Acidify & Heat Milk
Use the best quality milk you can find when making this cheese. Raw milk is ideal, if you do not have access to raw milk use a fresh good quality milk and add 8-12 oz of cream.
Begin by heating the milk to 94F. You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.
Once the milk is at 94F all of the cultures can be added. To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.
The milk now needs to be kept at this target temperature until it is time to increase for cooking the curds. Hold the milk with culture quiet for the next 30 minutes to allow the culture to begin doing its work. Note that this is a much shorter time than most cheese due to the activity of our new Thistle Rennet.
It will be very slow initially but will soon kick into its more rapid rate of converting lactose to lactic acid.
Coagulate with Rennet
Then add 10 ml (2 tsp) of liquid thistle rennet. Yes, this is much more than you are used to. This is being added much earlier in the process because it is much weaker and due to the way it works much slower.
The milk now needs to sit quiet for 45-60 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd.
The milk will begin to thicken at about 25-30 minutes, but allow it to coagulate to firmness at about 45-60 minutes.
It is always best to check for a firm coagulation and if it seems to need longer allow it to go as much as 25-50% longer. The next time you make the cheese, adjust the rennet amount if needed (more rennet for a quicker set).
The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time, you can heat it back to temp after cutting.
Cut Curd & Cook
Once you have determined that the milk has set well, it is time to cut the curds smaller. This is the first step in reducing the curd moisture.
First cut the curd initially to about 1-1.5inch pieces, and then allow the cut curd to rest for 5 minutes
Next cut the curds smaller as evenly as possible to about hazelnut sized pieces, and then allow the cut curd to rest for another 5 minutes, so that the cut curd surfaces can heal.
Return the curds to 94F if they have cooled. Remember to stir carefully, the curds are very soft.
Now it is time to begin drying out the curds this will be done by stirring slowly for 15-20 minutes to allow the curd to release some moisture.
The final curds will be still quite moist and soft. They should begin to show a more defined shape than the original custardy appearance after cutting. This can be a bit tricky to determine but with experience you should be able to recognize the moisture level and curd character when ready to mold.
When this point is reached the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey but do not let them rest there for any time.
Transfer Curd to Molds
You can use two small tomme cheese molds or small basket cheese molds for more detailed presentation. The pictures show 4 molds but this is a guide for just 2 gallons so just 2 forms.
Next step will be to Remove the whey down to about 1-2 inches above the settled curds.
Then give them a good stir before transferring to the molds to make sure that the curds are well separated. The remaining whey will help the curds float into a more compact position with fewer holes caused by air spaces.
The curds can now be transferred to the molds lined with drain cloth.
Work quickly because they will be ready to. Be turned in just a few minutes.
The cheese needs to be kept warm at 75-80F for the next few hours while the culture continues to work
First Turn: The cheese needs to be turned in the mold within 5-10 minutes of the initial transfer. Simply fold the cloth over the cheese and turn it with the folded edges down. This will keep the curds from breaking. Allow it to sit under its own weight for another 10 minutes.
Remove Cloth: Next step is to remove the cheese and unwrap and remove the cloth. The side that was facing down with the folded cloth will be a bit uneven so place it back in the mold the with that uneven surface down.. no cloth.
Then place a follower on top and press with about 3 lbs of weight. A quart jar of warm water is about right for each one. In my photograph I have used a board and bowl of warm water(1gal) to press all at the same time. Leave this to press for about 30 minutes.
Next Turn: remove the weight and turn the cheese, replacing the weight and keeping it warm. Allow it to sit for another 60 min
Turn and Repeat: Repeat this every 60 minutes until the cheese becomes well consolidated, showing minimal cracks or openings in the surface. This should take about 2-3 more turns.
At each turn you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.
This may prove difficult if you dried the cheese too much before removing the whey.
Once the cheese has formed a nice consolidated surface, the weights can be removed and the cheese turned once more.
The cheese should take about 12 hours from adding culture until the final acid has developed and ready for brining.
If you have a pH meter or the pH strips from our website, the final pH will be about 5.3 at this point.
You should have a saturated brine prepared for salting this cheese. You will find all of the details you need on brining here. A simple brine formula is: 1 Gallon of water to which is added 2.25 Lbs of Salt, 1tbs. Calcium Chloride (30% solution), and 1 tsp. white vinegar.
The cheese now needs to be set in the brine for about 1.5 hours. The cheese will float above the brine surface so sprinkle another teaspoon or two of salt on the top surface of the cheese.
Flip the cheese and re-salt the surface about half way through the brine period.
At the end of the brine bath, wipe the surface and allow the cheese to surface dry overnight in a cool area (65-70F) and with free movement of air. Do not let it darken or begin to crack.
The cheese is now ready for its short aging. The initial aging space should be 62-68F and 85-90% moisture. This will encourage the early ripening cultures activity.
I use wooden boards inside a plastic tray with cover to keep the moisture up. The wood acts as a buffer for moisture PLUS it carries the ripening community from generation to generation. Turn the cheese at least 1-2 times each day.
After the first 3-5 days you will notice a very different surface and a yeasty smell. This is the first surface community of ambient yeast. Once this appears it is time to wash the rinds and move to the next phase of surface development.
Move the cheese to a cooler space of 52-54F and 90-95% and prepare the wash as below to be used for the washed rind.
Washed Rinds: Prepare a wash for this phase, a day or so before you finish in the warm room. To make the wash: A cup of water, plus one tablespoon of non iodized salt. Stir well and add another pinch of both Geo and B.linens (just for insurance since you already added it to the milk) as noted above. Store this in a sealed jar in the fridge until use.
This cool phase begins with a cool water wipe to remove some of the greasy surface. Then move the cheese to a covered plastic box with an aging board cut to size on the bottom.
Note: Never wash your boards with detergent; just hot water scrub and dry in the sun. They tend to harbor the complex of washed rind bios over time.
Begin using the wash on just the top surface and sides. You only need a small amount on a sanitized cloth for this. I usually pour a few tablespoons of the prepared wash on the cloth so that I do not have to mix fresh each time. Allow this surface to dry slightly and then place it washed side up in the box. Allow this to rest in the aging space for a day or so and then turn it over and do the other surface.
Repeat this every 3-5 days as you see a white film of mold developing. The surface will become damp or tacky but do not allow it to get swampy or wet. Within 10 days you should notice a slight pinkish/orange surface developing. If done properly no blue, dark, or fuzzy mold should grow. That is the beauty of the washed rinds. It took the monks to figure this out.
How long should the wash go for? This depends on the character you want. I normally wash the entire cheese in just a light brine as it approaches its final development (this will be very subjective). Too much surface aroma competes with the sweet flavor of the cheese . Once I clean the surface, I move the cheese to a cooler space for extended maturation of another couple of weeks. It can go much longer, depending on character desired.
The ideal condition during ripening is not too wet or dry. You should feel a dampness but nothing wet or greasy.
As the cheese ripens it will take on a nice rosy surface character and towards the end a nice powdery white surface will begin to develop. Also because of the very active enzymes in this thistle rennet, the body of the cheese will continue to become softer and softer. To avoid the spreading of the cheese during aging I have taken to binding the edges with a strip of cloth as I have seen done in Spain with the Torta.
The cheese should be ripe and ready at 5-6 weeks but can go much longer to really soften and almost molten-like inside. You can cut into it early as a semisoft or wait until it turns to goo and cut the top off spooning the contents onto bread.
A New Hybred Cheese
This is a unique cheese made with a coagulant made from the floral parts (stamens) of the wild growing thistle called Cardoon(Cynara cardunculus). This ancient style of rennet has been commonly used in Spain and Portugal for centuries but primarily for ewes milk or a mix of ewe and goat. those big thorns on the Cardoon flower below, mother nature’s defenses at work.
The cheese shown here is ripe and ready to enjoy in only 6 weeks. On a board with other great cheese from my cellar it's the first to disappear.
Unlike the traditional coagulant that needed to be made direct from the dried flower parts each time the cheese was made, our new ‘Thistle Rennet’ is a stabilized product that will last many months.
In the past when using it with cows milk, the cheese would quickly become bitter (but not with ewes milk) due to the way that the enzymes would act on the proteins of the different milks.
When working in Spain a few years ago I was so impressed with the character of their local ewes milk cheese made with the rennet from the Cardoon flowers. They had a softness and freshness unlike any other cheese as well as a very unique texture and flavor. The cheese is so well reduced in its short aging period that the primary way to eat it is to remove the top and spoon out the beautiful viscous paste onto a piece of bread.
Torta del Casar was one of the primary cheese I tasted in Spain and before that I had worked with the Spanish Cheese Master, Enric Canut from Barcelona a few years back in making this ewes milk cheese.
We have now acquired this new thistle rennet made from the Cardoon Flowers (now available on our website) and I have been working at changing processes enough to work with cows milk and avoid the bitterness for over two years now. It really is a matter of understanding this ancient but updated enzyme and how it works with the proteins of different milks AND doing a lot of trials.
My targets to work from were:
- The Torta del Casar (or similar Torta La Serena) made with ewes milk
- My favorite from the Alps, Reblochon My goal was to see what I could do about the bitter flavor. This was not an easy make with lots of trials but eventually I managed to get rid of the bitter flavor and that is the cheese I show you here
What is Cardoona Cheese
This is a Hybrid cheese. I love to take what I learn from my cheese research travels and work with mixing the character of many concepts that make them so great. Sometimes I am driven to mix the concepts from two or more cheeses into one fantastic cheese.
This cheese was inspired by a visit to The Spanish National Cheese Festival in Trujillo Spain. Almost all of the regional cheesemakers had a cheese in this style using the rennet made from Cardoon flowers. To say the least I was very impressed with the flavor and texture as well as the short ripening of this cheese.
When I returned from that trip to Spain I felt that I just had to explore the possibilities of working with this rennet but with cows milk, even though every one I talked to said it was a big problem with bitterness. The strong cutting activity of the enzymes creates five bitter peptides from cow’s milk proteins that are not formed from the proteins in ewe’s milk.
In making this cheese my goal was combining the character of these two very different cheeses:
- A wheel of Torta del Casar is about .5-2 inches tall. The rind becomes firm but the ripened cheese is so soft that it is usually wrapped with a strip of cloth to keep its shape, much as the spruce bark bound cheeses of France and Switzerland. When ripe it will be molten inside and the best way to serve is to slice off the top and scoop out the interior with a spoon onto a piece of bread.
- Reblochon is a small washed rind cheese from the Savoie area of France and again a very soft cheese, ripening from surface to center. The ripened cheese tends to be very creamy and tends to belly out from the rind when cut and held at the table.
So an inquiring mind needed to know if it was possible to avoid the bitterness and still make a great cheese. This hybrid was a big success and I will definitely be doing more using this thistle rennet.
I will be writing more on how I do this research taking a cheese from a rough idea to the final cheese in a series of short blog articles I plan to write for the newsletter in the not too distant future
The History of the Cardoon Rennet
In the western part of Spain (Extremadura) where I was working, the weather is hot and vegetation is sparse, understandably not much grows there. Traditionally the land is set aside for the famous black pigs in the south and the sheep and goat herds further north.
Traditionally within this region there were large tracts of land set aside for the movement of the sheep to higher and cooler pastures during the summer. These were essentially Pastoral Highways set aside for the grazing and movement of these herds. They still exist today as the ‘Dehesa’ or Pastoral Highways much as they did centuries ago. You can still see these on detailed maps of western Spain.
These arid and open lands were poor for agriculture but provided enough dryland grass for the sheep. These same pastures also provided a good home for the Cardoon Thistle (Cynara cardunculus) to grow well. Since the same pastures were shared by both the sheep and the Cardoona, you may wonder why they survived … just look at those thorns on the picture of the Cardoon pictured here here.
The primary economy was based on the herds but these were not rich people for the most part and to kill a young lamb for rennet was not considered sensible since the herds were mostly small.
At some point in the past, someone realized that a tea like infusion made from the stamens of the Cardoon flower could be used to coagulate the milk of the ewe and goat, therefore avoiding the loss of the young lamb.
tThis was specific to ewes milk cheese and some goat milk cheese but when used with cows milk it created a bitter flavor due to the way the thistle rennet worked with the cows milk proteins (quite different from ewes milk ).
To this day the Torta del Casar is one of the most sought after cheeses in Spain. You may ask why we don’t see it more often in our stores here? Well largely because it is a tough cheese to keep from over-ripening during the shipping and retail time. When its ripe it needs to be consumed. If the cheese does appear in shops here it is rarely in the the fully ripened state.
Update about ingredient
I want to add a little update about main component - rennet from plant. The Name "cardoon" came from name of plant- "Cynara cardunculus" or arthshoke. Liquid rennet made with water extract of dried flovers of arthishoke plant. This component still in use for creating of Flor de Guía cheese .