Although some cheese recipes purposely create a product that is crumbly and dry when it is ready to eat, most products should turn out soft and smooth. When you get the first result after expecting the second, it’s fair to say that the idea of being a home cheesemaker feels like a fleeting one.
You can wait several months in anticipation to cut into cheese that turns out to be less than desirable.
Before you give up on your dream, it is important to remember three things at that moment.
- Every cheesemaker produces something that doesn’t meet their expectation.
- Crumbly and dry cheese is still edible.
- Aging isn’t the culprit for a product that doesn’t have the correct texture.
When you make cheese, the foundation of your final result happens in the pot. You must follow the recipe’s instructions to the letter to ensure a positive outcome. If something unforeseen happens that you don’t catch, the cheese you end up eating isn’t very satisfying.
That’s the bad news. Here is the good stuff: dry and crumbly cheese is relatively easy to fix. This guide will take you through the processes that can cause this issue so that you can get to the root of the problem.
Why Did I Get Crumbly Cheese?
Several different issues could create the problem of having crumbly, dry cheese.
You may have used incorrect ingredients. The measurements you used may have been slightly off. Even the way that you drain or press the curds can impact the outcome of your cheesemaking efforts.
When the cheese goes through the aging process, any mistakes you made in the pot get amplified on the shelf.
The primary issue that creates this unwanted texture involves having an overly acidic pH level. That means at least one of the steps during the cheesemaking process over-developed to reduce the amount of available protein.
That’s why cheese becomes brittle.
The extra acidity causes the curds to shrink more than they would under regular conditions. That means there is less moisture available to the cheese as you press it into molds or wrap it for aging. That’s why it ends up being dry.
How Can I Overcome the Problem of Acidic Cheese?
The primary reason why home cheesemakers encounter dry and crumbly cheese is that they’re using outdated milk.
When milk gets old, it has a higher acidity level. That’s why it creates curds when it turns sour. Using it with your cheese recipe adds another level of acidification. Switching to a fresh supply can often resolve the problem.
If you are using fresh milk, the next likely culprit is the cultures used to make the cheese.
The fastest way to resolve an issue with acidity is to reduce the amount of culture used in the cheesemaking process. When too much of it is available, the result is a lower pH that contributes to your problem. You may have inadvertently put in more than what the recipe wanted.
Another way to reduce acidity during the cheesemaking process is to lower the ripening time between when you add the cultures and the rennet. Even a small amount of culture can turn the milk acidic if it is allowed to work for longer than intended. Adding the rennet slows production because it triggers curd formation.
If you still encounter issues with acidity after taking those steps, try washing the curd after you cut and cook it. This step isn’t ideal because it may change the texture of your cheese, but it will stall the acidification issue.
How Are You Handling the Curd?
If you’ve eliminated all of the acidification issues as the cause for crumbly, dry cheese, your curd handling techniques could be contributing to the problem.
When curd gets handled roughly, the fat globules can shatter within the solids. Although you may not see any initial changes to the texture as you cut and cook, it becomes more elasticized when this problem happens.
That texture leads to the cheese drying out faster than usual, resulting in the crumbly texture that you hope to avoid.
Soft cheese needs a large curd during the cut and cook because that process helps it to retain moisture. When you use the methods for a hard cheese variety, the result gives you a dry, unpleasant paste.
The temperature at which you cook the curd also plays a role in this outcome. It only takes a couple of degrees higher or lower to alter the profile of your cheese. If you go over your cooking time by a couple of minutes, it can also result in a lot of dryness.
Ingredient quality can come into play if you’ve resolved all the other potential issues. Older cultures, rennet, or additives can influence the cheesemaking process in unpredictable ways.
What If I’m Still Doing Everything Right?
If you have gone through this guide and believe you’ve corrected each problem without seeing improvement, your equipment could be to blame.
When your dairy thermometer is off by a couple of degrees, that can be enough to throw your cheesemaking recipe into chaos. The only way to correct that issue is to recalibrate your tools after each cheesemaking session.
It is helpful to keep a notebook in the kitchen to log your cheesemaking attempts. Write down the methods used, the temperature and timing, and how long you held the cheese in storage. When you track down the outcomes that are dry and crumbly, there could be a common connection waiting to get discovered.
It is also helpful to keep track of your successful cheesemaking attempts so that you can continue to replicate success.