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Tilsit Cheese Making Recipe Instructions

A Recipe for Making Tilsit Cheese in Your Kitchen

My guide, as written here, is for a 2 gallon batch which will yield a little more than 2 lbs of finished cheese. I normally do a double batch as I show in the photographs below for a better surface-to-mass ratio, as well as to obtain the low form profile for this cheese. You can very easily double the ingredients listed within this recipe for a 4 gallon batch.

  • Step 1

    Acidify & Heat Milk

    Begin by heating the milk to 90°F. 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.

    Calcium Chloride can be added at this point, if needed, as shown above

    The milk is picked up fresh in the AM and is carefully transferred and heated

    Once the milk is at 90°F, the culture can be added. Only 1/2 pack of each is required due to the long slow acid development, which will maintain a sweeter flavor.

    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.

    Note: In this recipe, a mesophilic culture is used for the primary conversion of lactose, but also a thermophilic culture is added and worked at the lower temperature. The thermophilic will carry through to the ripening stage, helping to convert the proteins to the soft, buttery texture that is characteristic for this style.

    Allow this milk to ripen for 60 minutes for the bacteria to re-vitalize themselves and begin their work of converting lactose to lactic acid.

  • Step 2
    Step 2

    Coagulate with Rennet

    Then, add about 1/4 tsp (1.25ml) of single strength liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool non-chlorinated water. Stir this into the milk in an up and down manner for about 1-2 minutes. The milk should quickly become still.

    The milk now needs to sit still for about 30 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. You will note the milk beginning to thicken at about 15 minutes but give it the full time for a complete set.

    The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period but it is OK if the temperature drops a few degrees during this time.

    Check for a firm curd before continuing. If the curd tends to be too firm, use a bit less rennet in the next batch. If it seems too soft at 30 minutes, wait until you see a firm curd (one that splits cleanly) but make a note to increase the rennet proportionately for the next time you make this.

  • Step 3
    Step 3

    Cut Curds & Release Whey

    A firm curd is now ready to cut. Begin cutting vertically with a long knife, making 1/2-3/4" parallel cuts, then turn the pot a half turn and make secondary cuts at a right angle to the first cuts. The end result will be a checkerboard pattern on the surface. Let this sit for 4-5 minutes until you see whey rising in the cuts.

    Your next cut will be horizontal with a flat ladle or spoon. Do this evenly, but gently to avoid the curds clumping together. The final result should be a curd of between 1/2-3/8 inch. They will become smaller as you proceed with stirring and they release their whey. The smaller you cut the curd, the drier the final texture will be and the longer they will take to ripen.

  • Step 4
    Step 4
    Step 4
    Step 4

    Cook the Curds

    Now, it is time to begin drying out the curds as the bacteria continue to produce lactic acid from the lactose.

    1. First, by stirring the curds slowly and steadily for 15-20 minutes to allow the surfaces to form a slight skin, and then letting the curds settle below the whey.
    2. Next, about 30-40% (2.5-3 qts) of the whey is removed from the pot. I find that using a plastic colander (it floats) holds the curds back and makes it easy to ladle the whey off. This should bring you just about to the curd level. Stir the curds enough to float them, then add about 1qt of 125-130°F water back to the pot slowly over 20 minutes as you stir. This should slowly and evenly increase the temperature to 100°F.
    3. Finally, continue stirring slowly at 100°F for another 40-50 minutes, which will continue to dry the curds. This is optional, but some people do find that adding about 1/4 to 1/2 oz. of salt to the curds will help to draw moisture from the curds, as well as discourage the bacteria from becoming too active and keeping the curds sweet. Remember, our goal is a slow acid development for this cheese and a relatively sweet final cheese.

    The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.

    When this point is reached, the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey.

  • Step 5
    Step 5
    Step 5
    Step 5

    Form the Curds

    The sanitized mold lined with butter muslin should have been prepared ahead. The dry curds can now be transferred to the form.

    First, begin by allowing the curds to settle in the pot, then transfer the whey to the forms. This will help to wet the cloth for better wicking/drainage as well as to pre-warm the molds. It is a good idea to avoid any excess cooling of the curds before they have had a chance to consolidate.

    Once the whey has been drained to the curd level, give the curds a good stir before transferring to the forms. If you are adding herbs to the cheese, this is the time to add them in alternating layers with the curds.

    Note: For a more open texture (as in the Danish style Tilsit), you can pre-drain the curds before molding, but if a closed body (Swiss style) is your goal, then transferring direct to the forms with the whey is best.

  • Step 6
    Step 6
    Step 6
    Step 6

    Pressing

    Pressing for this cheese will be very light and a weight of 4-5 lbs for 2-4 hours should be sufficient for the 4.5" mold used for this cheese.

    If using a larger mold or pressing a drier curd, increase the total weight proportionately to the surface area of the mold.

    As usual, the rate of whey running off after the initial flush is simply a matter of drops and not a rush of whey being released. This is a good rate of whey removal during pressing and will slow even more as the residual free moisture is released. You should see tears of whey weeping from the form very slowly.

    At each turn the cheese takes on a more consolidated appearance

    The character of this cheese will be more open than most other firmer pressed cheeses.

    The cheese should be removed from the press, unwrapped, turned, re-wrapped, and put back into the form at about 1 hour intervals for the first 5-6 hours to assure an even consolidation.

    At each turn, you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.

    At about 6-8 hours, the cheese can be removed from the mold and is ready for the brine salting.

  • Step 7

    Salting

    You should already have a saturated brine prepared for salting this cheese.

    If not, you will find all of the details you need on brining here

    A simple brine formula is:

    • 1 gallon of water
    • 2.25 lbs of salt
    • 1 tbs calcium chloride (30% solution)
    • 1 tsp white vinegar

    The cheese now needs to be immersed in the brine for about 5 hours.

    The cheese will float above the brine surface, so sprinkle another teaspoon or 2 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 for 12-24 hours in a space of about 85% moisture and 60-68°F before beginning the rind development.

  • Step 8
    Step 8
    Step 8

    Aging

    Once you have the cheese out of the brine and dried of any surface moisture, you are ready to begin the rind development. A natural smeared washed/smeared rind is traditional for this cheese due to the conditions where it developed, cool and moist.

    The first step will be to preserve the moisture of the cheese and not allow the rind to dry on the surface. This will definitely need a moist area (90-95%) and for home cheese makers, I suggest a plastic container with a seal-able lid. The temperature should also be warmer (60-65°F) for the first 5-7 days as well. The cheese needs to be turned daily and the container wiped of any excess condensation that might drip on the cheese.

    A good program for progression of the rind development would be:

    1. Day 1 Post Brine Cheese rests in warm moist condition where 2 events are taking place
      1. Brine salt is moving towards the center of the cheese and the salt dried surface post brine will begin to soften in the next few days.
      2. Natural air-borne yeast will have populated the surface (from the air and your handling) and begin to grow.
    2. Day 3 to 5 The surface will become softer as the salt migrates to the center of the cheese and moisture from the center migrates outwards to the drier surface.

      The cheese will also take on a greasy surface as the yeast develops, as well as a rather yeasty aroma

      As you see the greasy surface develop, prepare a wash from 1 cup water, 1tbs salt, and 1/16 tsp B.linens. This needs to rehydrate overnight in the fridge.
    3. Day 5 to 9 The surface should show signs of the yeast growth and is ready for the first wash.

      The wash is done with a clean sanitized cloth dipped into the prepared brine with B.linens. Rub the surface well, dipping and rinsing the cloth in the brine frequently.

      When finished, the surface should be much less greasy.

      This will grow back over the next 2-3 days and should be washed again at least once more at day 7-9. Do additional washings until you begin to see signs of a light red/orange. The storage temp should now be reduced to cave temp of 52-56°F and a high moisture 90-95%.
    4. Day 9 to Final Aging This will normally be another 4-5 weeks or longer depending on the character you want. During this time, the surface should be lightly smeared with a new wash prepared as above, but no B.linens. This should only need to be done every 3-7 days with brine damp cloth and the purpose now is to smear the rind rather than wash it off. Many of the holes will begin to fill in.

    The character of the cheese can be controlled by the number of times it is washed and the length of ripening time.

    • Mild Flavor at 5 weeks
    • Medium Flavor at 3 months
    • Sharp Flavor at 6 months and very aromatic. More like Limburger

    The character can also be modified by removing the surface mold and dropping the temperature to 42-46°F while the aroma stabilizes but the cheese body continues to soften.

    As you can see, there is a lot of control in making a cheese like this, so feel free to experiment and make the cheese you like. This is the beauty of making your own cheese.