Salting cheese is an essential part of the cheesemaking process because it slows or stops bacterial processes. That means the conversion from lactose to lactic acid gets controlled.
The brine creates for the cheese removes most of the lactose. It eliminates the residual moisture to levels where enough acid remains for ripening, but nothing more. Controlling this process also supports flavor development.
Placing the cheese in a salt brine dries the rind out for ongoing development to inhibit the moulds that like to grow on the product.
What Is the Best Way to Make a Brine Solution?
It would be best if you used a non-reactive pan to create a brine solution for your cheese. The goal is to create a liquid that has a pH of 5.2.
Use one gallon of water, one kilogram of salt, one tablespoon of a 30% calcium chloride solution, and one teaspoon of white vinegar.
Mix all of the ingredients until they are well combined. Once all of the salt dissolves, you have a saturated brine solution to use for your cheese.
How to Use Brine for Cheese
Once you finish pressing the cheese, move it to a cool location so that it can match the temperature of the brine solution.
If you place the cheese in a salt brine when it is too warm, more salt absorption occurs. This creates a problem with the overall flavor profile.
Place the cheese into the liquid once the temperatures are similar. The salt in the brine should cause most varieties to float above the surface. Sprinkle a small bit of salt on the top of the cheese or dunk it carefully into the fluid.
You’ll need to flip the cheese over about halfway through the brining process to achieve a consistent result. The size and shape can influence how long it should remain in the fluid. As a general guideline, assume that you’ll need at least one hour for every inch of thickness.
Dense cheeses with low moisture levels need about 50% more time.
Once the cheese goes through the brining process, drain it thoroughly. It should air dry to give you the best result. Depending on what variety you made, it may take up to 72 hours for a firm, dry surface to appear.
You typically need to flip the cheese during the drying process every four hours, including during any overnight time. If you have a cool, dry storage area, it may be possible for some varieties to get flipped once every 12 hours instead.
How to Manage Your Leftover Brine
After the brining work is complete, you can store the leftover fluid for up to two years. The liquid gets better after each use to create outstanding flavors. Trying to dump saltwater into treatment systems can also damage them.
If your brine develops mold or starts to look cloudy, boil the liquid to remove the impurities. Filtering it afterwards can catch any unwanted particles or debris that remains.
Most cheesemakers don’t make new brine because it always gets circulated and filtered. When you follow this process for the cheese you make, the results can be outstanding.
For a more in-depth look at Making Brine for Cheese Making watch this video
Video Credit to Gavin Webber