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Catamount Gold Info

Catamount Gold, a True Origional

This recipe is one of Jim’s mixed process specialties; in other words he is shaking the style of things up a bit.

The result is a small round of dairy richness, with a beautiful rose colored rind.

The process will be a Semi-Lactic Cows milk Cheese, with additional cream added using a washed curd process, and finished by developing a bacterial washed rind.

And yes, it can be a bit of a stinker, but in a good way.

From whence came the name "Catamount Gold"? Living in the hills of western Massachusetts, we get these beautiful colors every fall, as the foliage changes and the hills turn from their lush green of summer to an autumn mix of gold and red.

Tucked up in these hills is Catamount State Forest, one of my favorite hikes around here.

This cheese reminds me of these hills as it ripens.


The Process in a Nutshell

Style wise, one would have difficulty putting this cheese in a box. It is one of Jim's own hybrids:

  1. It is a semi-lactic process, meaning it primarily counts on acid development for curd coagulation, with just a little rennet. More than a pure lactic, but less than a rennet set cheese.
  2. Most Lactic styles use goat milk, but this one uses cows milk. Quite unusual for a Lactic style.
  3. It has an unusually long ripening period before adding rennet, to accommodate the use of cow milk.
  4. It is a washed curd process, using whey removal to deny the cultures some of the lactose food supply, thus yielding a sweeter cheese in the end. Whey is removed (lactose) and the same temperature water is added back
  5. It is a washed rind cheese using a light salt brine to wash the surface. This creates a surface community that can fend off any unwanted bacteria or molds and developing a rosy-golden surface that has a very aromatic character.

While this is not a cheese for the uninitiated (intermediate to advanced would be the skill level I recommend) but I encourage all to read through the specifics of this guideline just because it's so interesting.

It begins as a lactic style cheese, typically associated with goat milk, but instead using a raw (preferably) cows milk with extra high butterfat. There will be a challenge to keeping all of that butterfat from running off with the whey, but we will give you some details to help with that. The final milk will be about 5.5-6.5% butterfat.

The young cheese will encourage the natural yeast to work on its surface, followed by a yeast like white mold. When this looks all well and good, we will encourage a washed rind to be developed with a special saline bath. This will transform the surface to a rose colored ripening layer that will gradually transform the interior to a soft translucent goodness.


A Few Important Technical Notes

Semi-Lactic cheese using cow milk

A lactic cheese is one made with very little rennet enzyme. The coagulation is mostly caused by the production of lactic acid from lactose in the milk. As the acidity increases, the proteins begin to bind together in preparation for separation of the curds and whey. Semi-Lactic refers to the fact that it is a process that falls in between a full lactic coagulation (using little to no rennet) and the firmer coagulation (using much more rennet) as used in making a hard cheese.

Normally, this process is used for goat, and sometimes ewes, milk but rarely for cows milk. The reason for this being that the cows milk has a much larger fat unit and commonly rises to the surface during coagulation, whereas goat milk does not tend to separate as much. The result in using cows milk for this would be a large mass of butterfat coagulating on the surface, whereas goat milk tends to be more evenly distributed through the developing curd. The success of this cheese requires a very different process to keep the butterfat in the cow milk from separating during coagulation, which we will detail below in the guidelines.

Washed curds, a slower bacteria activity

We do not want an excessive amount of acid to develop, so we need to slow down the bacteria.

The easiest way to keep from getting fat is controlling diet. So that is what we will do by washing the curds here. This essentially means removing some of the whey, which contains the milk sugars that the bacteria would like to feast on. We take a specified amount of whey/lactose/food away, and add back same temperature water, essentially putting the bacteria on a diet.

Washed rind, building the rind

Many of you know that a fresh cheese, left on its own, is a perfect place for all kinds of yeast, bacteria, and molds to grow, ultimately leading to one scary science project. To avoid this we need to build a layer of protection around the cheese.

We could simply wax it, or vakpak it, but not a great idea for such a high moisture cheese that is still developing. The best way to do this is to develop a natural rind. For a firmer long aged cheese this can be done by simply brushing the surface clean on a regular schedule, but the higher moisture cheese like this would not stand up for that.

What we need to do for this cheese is develop a natural living rind that will out-compete other molds for the surface. This could be a bloomy rind as you see on Camembert or as in this case we prepare a surface that appeals to certain salt loving bacteria groups that form the typical somewhat aromatic and yellow to red of the washed rind cheese. This can be done by washing with a light salt wash preparing for these bacteria to grow. In some cases they are natural local bacteria or they can be added in the milk or wash. We will detail this below.