The Name Says it All
By Rikki Carroll
Butter (we all know what that is) and kase, the word for cheese in German, falls into the international language for cheese: kase, kass, queso, queijo, caccio, and even the English cheese all evolved from old Latin for chebutterkase, “caseus.” Somehow just the name Butterkäse has us thinking about snack time, with this cheese just sliced or melted over something tasty.
The mild flavor and soft texture make this an ideal cheese for the table. I am sure that a lot of those requests that came to me for this recipe came from folks who grew up with this as the “go to” cheese at home when young (or not so young).
The cheese is normally presented as a rectangular loaf-like shape and normally weighs about 3.5 lbs. It does contain a high moisture content and at room temperature may begin to deform slightly. The higher moisture is also part of the reason why it has such a buttery texture and melts so well. This higher moisture is, in large part, due to the way the cheese curd develops. The cheese can also be seen in low disc-shaped forms as well and is probably the easiest way to make this at home.
The surface of the cheese undergoes a series of light salt washes during its early aging life, but this is kept to a minimum and eventually washed off to favor a milder flavor. This also serves to maintain the high moisture and thin supple rind.
The body of the cheese is usually quite open with irregular holes (as in the photo to the left). These are called mechanical holes and are the result of an early draining of the curds and very little to no press weight during the molding.
I have also seen Butterkäse showing the round shiny holes from internal expanding gas pockets, similar to those found in Gouda or Alpine-style cheeses (Comtè, Gruyère, etc.). These would be the result of a different press weight and warmer aging conditions.
A Modern Cheese
In looking for some background on the history for this cheese, I was surprised at how little information there was available. This leads me to believe that it is a very modern cheese, developed perhaps in the last 50 years. (Yes, that would be modern for cheese history!)
For such a young style of cheese, I do find it rather surprising how quickly its popularity has increased, but it really is an all-around tasty cheese that has certainly gained its fans quickly. Currently this cheese is made in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even in the U.S. several producers can be found.
This growing popularity is another great reason to focus on this cheese recipe.
A Very Different Cheese Process
There are three process variations that make this cheese what it is:
1.) One of the most interesting and unusual stages in the process for this cheese is the temperature to which the milk is heated before adding rennet. The milk is taken to 104-108°F before the rennet is added. These higher temperatures (up to 108°F) result in faster rennet coagulation times and above 106°F the rennet coagulation begins to slow again. Lower temperatures result in slower coagulation as well.
Therefore we do expect the coagulation to be quicker and firmer. As a result this will tend to keep more moisture in the curd, which is less likely to drain.
2.) Another process point of interest is the use of the two different cultures:
A. A mesophilic culture that does best at 86°F and is well on its way to dying off at 104-106F.
B. A thermophilic culture that does well at 104-112°F (optimum temperature range).
Considering the mesophilic cultures, the milk is initially heated to 86°F but remains there just long enough for the mesophilic culture to begin developing (about 30-45 minutes) before the temperature is raised to 104-106°F and the mesophilic culture dies off.
The obvious question is … Why bother adding the mesophilic just to kill it off, since it is not allowed to live long enough to carry out its primary role of converting milk sugars to lactic acid? The answer to this points us to the secondary function of most dairy bacteria. Their secondary role is the release of enzymes following the death of the cell. These have been found to function heavily in the breakdown of proteins during the aging process. These protein changes will be realized in the final texture of this cheese.
The thermophilic culture, on the other hand, will be comfortably working at its optimum temperature. This is a much higher initial starting temperature than most other thermophilic cheeses use.
3.) Also of note is that Butterkäse is normally a very mild cheese due to a restrained development of acid and can be found with a slightly acid taste as well as a sweeter version. This is usually controlled by varying the availability of lactose during the process. The sweeter version has a good portion of the lactose taken out and replaced with warm water before the curd is drained. This is known as a “washed curd” process and is similar to that used in the making of Gouda cheese.I will fully detail these two options below.
A Recipe for Making Your Own Butterkäse in the Kitchen
Our intent for this cheese is to produce a relatively moist curd going into the forms and allow it to continue developing acid while draining whey in a warm environment.
Before you begin you will need:
• 2 gallons of milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1 packet of our buttermilk culture as the mesophilic addition for it’s enzyme contribution.
1 packet of our C201 thermophilic culture for the higher temperature.
Geotrichum just a pinch (1/64 teaspoon) to dry out the surface and develop a protective surface growth. Add this with the other cultures.
• Liquid rennet (2.25 ml or slightly less that 1/2 teaspoon).
• Brine for initial salting the cheese. (This should be prepared in advance.)
• Salt (non-iodized) will be needed to prepare the washes for aging.
• A good thermometer.
• A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds with.
• Stainless 6-inch mold. (1)
• Some butter muslin to line the molds for draining the curds.
• Draining mats to allow the whey to run off from the molded curds.
• A small weight (5-8 lbs.) to apply weight for slight consolidation of the curds.
• Calcium chloride for pasteurized cold-stored milk.
Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.
Acidifying and Heating the Milk
Begin by heating the milk to 86°F (30°C). 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 86°F, the two cultures can be added plus the geotrichum. 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.
Allow this to ripen for 45-60 minutes, holding the temperature above. During this time, both the mesophilic and thermophilic bacteria will begin to awaken but will be doing only minimal acid production.
Prepare the mold, cloth, and draining area by sanitizing everything while waiting for the culture to develop.
Next, begin heating the milk to 104°F. As you heat from 86°F, any mesophilic activity that has begun will slow down until it reaches 102-104°F, then they will begin to die off within about 15 minutes at the higher temperature. The enzymes left behind will be beneficial during aging. Meanwhile, the thermophilic will begin to move into a more favorable temperature range and begin converting lactose to lactic acid.
Coagulation with Rennet
Then add about 2.25 ml or slightly less than 1/2 teaspoon of single strength liquid rennet.
The rennet needs to be added and mixed in thoroughly for 1 minute without agitating the milk excessively (up and down mixing is best). The milk needs to become still within three minutes of adding the rennet.
The milk now needs to sit quiet for 20-25 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. This is a very quick coagulation time due to the higher temperature and the milk will begin to thicken at about eight minutes.
The high temperature will form a very firm curd and should have an almost tofu-like texture. Test the curd to be sure a good firm coagulation has taken place. The break should be very clean and the whey forming in the gap should be neither too milky nor too clear.
Cutting Curds and Releasing the Whey
The firm curd can now be cut. The first cut should be vertical only in both directions at about two inches. Rest the curd for about five minutes before the next cut. This will allow the cuts to heal and release minimal fat into the whey. Next, make the horizontal cut with a spoon or draining ladle and continue breaking the curd to about 5/8-inch pieces over the next 7-10 minutes. Keep the curd moving gently during this time to avoid clumping.
Cooking the Curds
Considering that the milk/curds were already heated to a higher temperature of 104-106 degrees F, there is no need for further heating of the curds.
We do have a couple of optioadd the same ns to vary the character of the final cheese at this point:
To produce a slightly more acid profile cheese: Let the curds rest for a short time (15-30 min.) to heal, release whey, and firm up. Only intermittent stirring (every three to five minutes) should be done just to keep curds free from matting.
To produces a sweeter cheese:
This option involves a whey removal and replacement with the same temperature water. This will remove lactose and slow the acid development by reducing the lactose supply for the culture. Do this by:
• Stirring the curds gently for 10 minutes.
• Allow the curds to settle to the bottom.
• Remove 50 percent of the whey.
• Add the same amount of water back at 104-106F.
• Stir gently for 30 to 45 min.
The final curds should be cooked well enough, so that when a small handful is compressed slightly, they do not become “mooshy” (my new technical word for disintegrating, breaking down, etc.). In other words, they may tend to deform but do not individually break up in your hand. This can be adjusted by the amount of final stirring times in both options above.
Forming the Cheese
The final curds can now be transferred to the form. (You should have already prepared and lined with butter muslin.)
Begin by removing whey again down to about 1-inch above the curd surface. Then transfer the curd along with the whey to your form, lightly compacting it as you fill. Initially, you may use a 4-6 lb. weight for about one hour to consolidate the curd but do remember that an open internal paste is expected for this cheese. At this point, your cheese is still converting lactose to lactic acid and must be kept warm at 80-90 degrees F for the next five to six hours while this acid production completes. The interior of the cheese may remain much warmer for several hours, since it is cooling down from the original curd temperature of 104°F.
I maintain the higher temperature during draining here by using my insulated draining table with pans of hot water and an insulated cover as shown below.
You can do this at home simply by using an insulated cooler with jars or jugs of warm water to incubate the cheese. Remember to remove the whey that is released, as it accumulates.
The fresh butterkäse will need to be turned frequently at 30-minute intervals to close the surface openings during the first three to four hours. The cheese should be removed from the mold, unwrapped, turned, rewrapped, and put back into the mold at the above intervals to assure an even surface consolidation. At each turn you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.
At about five to six hours after molding the cheese, it should be ready to be unmolded, cooled overnight, and transferred to its salt bath. If the cheese still seems to be expelling whey, this is an indication that the cheese has cooled too much during the post-molding and acid development has slowed. Allow it to sit a bit longer to develop its final acid and try to warm the developing cheese more next time.
You should already have a saturated brine prepared for salting this cheese. A simple brine formula is:
1 gallon of water to which is added:
2.25 lbs. of salt
1 tablespoon calcium chloride (30 percent solution)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
The cheese now needs to be soaked in the brine for about three to four hours. The brining is done at a cool temperature of 52-56°F. Warmer conditions cause a faster salt intake and allow certain salt-loving molds to grow. (I always keep my brine in the cool cave between uses.)
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 halfway through the brine period.
At the end of the brine bath, wipe the surface and allow the cheese to surface dry for a day. The surface may darken somewhat during this time but watch that no cracking occurs. I normally dry my cheese at about 52-56°F and a moisture of about 65-75 percent.
The cheese is now ready for aging.
The cheese should now be placed into your aging space at 52-56°F and 90-95 percent moisture. This is a higher amount of moisture than my cave normally operates at, so I use flat trays with covers as seen below to hold the higher moisture. The ripening should be done for a minimum of four to six weeks but it can develop more character if held for longer.
The cheese should be turned at least once a day and during the first week it will develop a yeast community on the surface. The cheese will change from a rather dry surface to a greasy surface due to this. The surface community is actually decreasing the acidity because of the yeast and thus preparing it for a thin coat of geotrichum to grow. A small amount of a rosy-orange bacteria (natural B. linens) may also develop.
This yeast (and eventually molds) should be controlled by periodically washing in a light brine (1 tablespoon non-iodized salt in 1 cup of water) every three to four days. If the cheese surface tends to dry between these washings, wipe them as needed with a cloth moistened with unsalted potable water. In this case the moisture needs to be higher.
Then dry for one to two hours but never let the surface darken or become completely dry. Then return to the aging space. After about 10 days, you will see a thin powdery white growth (the geotrichum you added initially).
At about three to four weeks, the cheese can be washed for the last time. The earlier this is done, the milder the final cheese. At about four to six weeks the cheese is ready for the table, but if a more complex cheese is desired with a softer structure, it can be wrapped and moved to a cooler 40-42°F aging space for extended aging. The moisture needs to be kept high enough to keep the surface from drying out.
Butterkäse – reprinted with permission by Ricki Carroll, New England Cheese Making Supply Company, www.cheesemaking.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the MarchApril 2015 issue of Dairy Goat Journal.