Lactic Cheese Info
The lactic series of cheese are primarily made with little to no rennet and rely primarily on the action of the bacteria converting the milk lactose to lactic acid. When the milk acidity becomes high enough, the milk will coagulate even without the use of rennet. They can range from very moist fresh curd cheeses to somewhat dry small cheeses depending how much draining and drying take place in the initial process.
What is Lactic Cheese
Lactic cheese or Acid Set cheese differs from the firmer rennet set cheeses in that they rely primarily on the activity of the bacteria converting lactose to lactic acid causing the proteins to cling together and thus form a curd.
The milk will take much longer to coagulate for a lactic cheese at 16-24 hours and at a much higher acid level of.4-.5% (pH 4.8-5.0) then the rennet set cheese which only requires 10-30 minutes and very low acid levels of .17-.15% (pH 6.5-6.6).
The lactic cheese will result in a weaker curd because the higher acid causes much of the calcium that normally forms firm cheese bonds to run off with the draining whey. As a result only small cheeses can be made and spontaneous drainage is the only means of removing moisture. No pressing can be used for these cheeses.
The lactic curds are also ladled in larger masses for whey drainage and not cut as in rennet set cheese. The lactic curds can either be pre-drained in cloth bags or ladled directly to small molds for draining.
The lactic cheese are normally very fresh tasting high moisture cheeses with a very high lactic acid flavor. The goats milk Chevre is a classic example of this and our cheese here will be focused on making this from cows milk.
Two Options for Milk
For the recipe we include two options for milk.
Milk pasteurized at 176F for 16 seconds | The reason I have included this milk is that the pasteurization temps that are used by dairies today are beginning to increase. These milks will still work nicely for many cheeses but some extra time needs to be expended to bring the curds together and release the moisture.
If the milk is processed at higher than 172F there will be problems in forming a good curd. Certain whey proteins have been destabilized and now are getting in the way of the calcium and casein proteins making good strong bonds (sort of like putting several thick sheets of paper between 2 magnets). If you have added the proper amount of rennet and still see a weak curd after waiting 2-3 times the normal coagulation time, then the curd will probably not improve. This milk will need some help with drainage and will need to be ladled into a cloth lined strainer and drained for 12-24 hrs before being scooped into forms.
Raw milk or milk pasteurized at 162F for 16 seconds | This is the good milk we would all like to find and work with and with some research it can usually be found in most areas. Please see our "Good Milk" section online
This milk will form a very nice curd and should drain quite easily. This curd can be easily ladled directly into forms or into the cloth lined strainer for pre-draining if a drier cheese is preferred.
Two Options for Cultures
For the recipe we include two options for cultures.
Chevre Culture | This culture pack will provide both the bacteria to convert lactose to lactic acid PLUS the small amount of rennet to assist the acid in forming a curd (much less than used in pressed cheese).
The flavor will be slightly lactic but otherwise quite neutral.
Buttermilk Culture | This is a more complex culture which not only works on the lactose to lactic acid conversion but also produces a very distinct buttery flavor and very small amounts of carbon dioxide which will leave tiny holes in the cheese. The tiny holes will produce a lighter texture in the finished cheese as well.
This culture contains no rennet so this will need to be added to the milk after the milk has undergone a short ripening period. The amount of rennet needed is 2-3 drops of single strength rennet per gallon.