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Choosing and Maintaining Your Starter Cultures

Posted by The CheeseMaker on

The use of the modern freeze dried Direct Set Cultures is very convenient for home and artisan cheese makers. There is no longer a need to make a 'mother culture' or 'starter culture', unless you are a large producer and intend to inoculate a large amount of milk (1000-10,000 lbs.)

Caring for them once you open the sealed foil packet is important to shelf-life and consistent batch making. If you will be using a small amount of culture for your batch, the following is very important; your culture can be effected by humidity and airborne elements. If the sealed foil packet is kept in the freezer, it will last 1.5-2 years, maybe even longer.

Once opened, it is important to keep moisture from shortening the shelf-life of your culture. Some cultures are blends of up to four different lactic bacteria in specific proportions. Some cultures contain a single strain of lactic bacteria. With the latter, using a small amount of the product for a small batch is fine. The cultures that contain a blend of different lactic bacteria strains need extra attention. Before opening or if the packet is already opened, shake the packet well to mix evenly the different strains before taking a small amount from the packet. Do not empty the packet into another container to mix it up. After taking the small amount of culture from the packet, fold the foil packet up a few times and place inside a small sealed Zip Lock style plastic bag, placing it inside another small Zip Lock style plastic bag. This will help to insure that outside humidity and airborne elements will not shorten the shelf-life or contaminate your culture.

What does DOSE mean? The dose is noted on some cultures to meet industry standards. A dose is not per gallon of milk, rather per weight of milk. Some culture packs are listed in grams which can be then divided to know how much to use for the amount of milk you are inoculating. Home and small artisan cheese makers can follow the usage rate on the packet once you receive it. Which starter culture do I use? Cheese making is part science, part craft. Therefore, if you are new to the craft, use the culture which is recommended on this web site or email me msteve@thecheesemaker.com.

Sometimes there may be more than one culture recommended. You may want to experiment by adjusting your recipe (make a sheet) and use a different starter culture. This way you can compare the flavor, acidity, texture of your cheese. Try not to change more than one variable at a time so you can determine exactly why your cheeses are different. Cultures, molds and yeasts are packaged in a moisture barrier sealed foil packets, keeping them free from air and humidity. After opening, fold over packet a few times and place in one, if not two small plastic bags or Zip-Lock type bags. Store dry cultures, molds, yeasts and dry rennet powder/tablets in the freezer. Store liquid rennet in there refrigerator.

Put this advice to use by purchasing one of our cultures today!