Cheese cultures are a form of bacteria that’s used in the beginning stages of the cheesemaking process. They are usually one of the first steps and are added to milk to start the process for most cheeses, except for Halloumi, which doesn’t require culture. Culture is used to help determine taste, smell and texture.
There are two standard cheese cultures that are used in cheesemaking, Thermophilic and Mesophilic. Thermophilic cultures are able to be heated to higher temperatures, while Mesophilic doesn’t do as well at high temperatures.
There are also specific types of Thermophilic and Mesophilic cultures that are commercially manufactured and can subtly change and alter the cheeses for different preferences. Usually all recipes tell you specifically what type of culture you should use.
Another type of cheese culture is propionic shermanii which is used for helping create the holey look or ‘eyes’ in cheeses like Swiss and Gruyere. The more you spend time making cheese and researching different recipes, the more you may want to start experimenting with other types of cheeses.
Recultured or DVI?
Some cultures require to be recultured first or you can get direct vat inoculation or DVI cultures, which are essentially ready to go and drop straight into the pot with the milk.
Your cultures are likely to have been previously freeze dried so it’s best to store your cultures in the freezers when you receive it. You can simply put it in a Ziplock bag or an airtight container when you’re not using it.
Since cultures affect the acidity of the milk, it’s important to correctly measure the right quantities as it can severely affect your cheese production. Too much culture in your milk mixture and your pH levels will end up too high and affect the final cheese.
There are many different types of cultures out there. We personally like shopping locally and supporting local cheesemaking supply companies. It’s also possible to create your own cultures using a Buttermilk, Mesophilic starter culture and yogurt, a thermophilic starter culture.
It’s common for beginner cheesemakers to start off using these cultures which is a great, cost effective option. That being said, commercial cultures deliver more consistent results which is why they’re more appealing to use.
For a more in-depth look at Starter Cultures for Cheese Making watch this video
Video Credit to Gavin Webber