Right now I have a gallon of lime-flavored milk
January 8, 2014 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Can it be salvaged? The goal was anything cheese-like. The resident cheese-maker is at work right now.

I cooked it til it seemed about to boil. Then added some vegetarian rennet and lime juice. Then thought maybe it wasn't hot enough. So I heated it again for a while, stirred and stirred and limed and limed. It still didn't separate so I let it sit anyway. Still no separation.

I know I should have researched more first but wikihow made it seem so easy! And I thought I'd seen it done before. The limey milk is still warm. Please help!
posted by aniola to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Another trait: it gets skin on top, like I'm used to seeing on warm milk.
posted by aniola at 2:05 PM on January 8, 2014

IANACheesemaker. Were you measuring the temperature? This guide seems quite specific about the temperatures required.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:14 PM on January 8, 2014

How much milk are we talking? And how long are you letting it sit?

I've never used lime-juice, only lemons, so I don't know their acid content, but you may need to just let it rest for awhile longer. Also, vegetarian rennet is supposedly not as effective as regular cow rennet, so that may have a further delay.

If you reaaaalllly just want to seperate the curd, just add 1/4 cup of white vinegar, let it separate, drain the whey, then toss the curds with some salt.
posted by Think_Long at 2:14 PM on January 8, 2014

Also - lay off the stirring. After you add the separating ingredient, you should gently mix it in, and then leave it alone.
posted by Think_Long at 2:15 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've tried making cheese using lemon juice before, and also tried making yogurt, and it really seems that temperature is also a big, big factor on this. You say you heated it until it was "just about to boil" - I'd get more exacting about the temperature; cheese and yogurt and things like that can get pretty fiddly about temperature having to be pretty specific (not like down to the exact degree, but there's much less wiggle room than you'd think).

Fortunately, you can get candy thermometers really cheap, and Ikea even has a digital thermometer that doubles as a timer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:18 PM on January 8, 2014

Needs more acid.

Seriously, I have no idea if this is actually salvageable, or whether, if you can get the milk to curdle whether the result will be any good or not. But every time I've made cheese, I've used vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid, and it has curdled pretty much right before my eyes. If you're getting it up to the right temperature, adding your acid, and nothing is happening, you didn't add enough acid.
posted by Sara C. at 2:26 PM on January 8, 2014

Beyond what other people have said here (temperature is very important and you can't make cheese without an accurate thermometer), you should make sure your milk is not ultrapasteurized. Ultrapasteurized milk can't be made into cheese, and it's easier to make cheese out of non-homogenized milk.
posted by saeculorum at 2:38 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks y'all. Sounds like this batch is a botch. It tastes plenty acidic enough, and I didn't use a thermometer, and might have stirred too much. I thought I didn't need a thermometer since one recipe says 100°F and the next says 175°F. Next time I'll pick a recipe and stick to it!

It's just regular pasturized milk.

Since it's a lost cause, I'm going to try turning it into yogurt.
posted by aniola at 2:39 PM on January 8, 2014

Or is it ok to reheat it and try again with a thermometer?
posted by aniola at 2:44 PM on January 8, 2014

Did you use ultra-pasteurized milk? That leads to poor curd formation (although usually I've gotten *something*...)

Also, 100F is way low.

Here's a recipe for mozzarella; when I made it the extension faculty member suggested using the microwave to heat the cheese for stretching instead of using the boiling water.

And this recipe for queso fresco was the other recipe we used in the cheese making class I took, and it's good. I should make some more. But don't use ultra-pasteurized milk. It doesn't work.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:48 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think if you're using rennet the temperature should have been kept much lower than boiling (more in that 100°F range). If you're using only acid then you heat all the way up to almost boiling. Not sure if the rennet somehow undermines the acid if you include it at the higher temperature.

I would reheat it up and make sure you get it to 180°F or so, then add more acid. For acid coagulation, you'll see the curdling right away (the rennet at lower temperatures takes a bit longer).

Not an expert, this is just my observation from making both mozarella (which uses rennet) and ricotta (which doesn't, if you make it directly from milk).
posted by yarrow at 2:49 PM on January 8, 2014

I cooked it til it seemed about to boil. Then added some vegetarian rennet and lime juice. Then thought maybe it wasn't hot enough. So I heated it again for a while

Rennet is a group of enzymes. Enzymes are inactivated if they get too hot; the specific temperature varies by enzyme, but this page suggests rennet is inactivated somewhere in the range of 140-150°F. So if it was above that when you added the rennet, or you heated it above that, it's likely you killed the rennet.

(The acid from the lime is not inactivated, but if you're trying to make a cheese with rennet it's unlikely the recipe had enough acid to curdle the milk by acid alone. And in any case, an acid-set cheese comes out different than a rennet-set cheese: for one thing, acid-set cheese generally doesn't melt when heated!)

As Think_Long and Sara C. suggest, you can add more acid to curdle it, and you will have a fine acid-set cheese.

I'd recommend looking at some of the other pages on the site I linked above and/or Fankhauser's cheese page rather than relying on WikiHow.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:49 PM on January 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

It tastes plenty acidic enough

This doesn't make any sense. You should be working off of some kind of recipe or ratio and add a specific prescribed amount of acid to the milk. It's not a "to taste" kind of thing.
posted by Sara C. at 2:50 PM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

...and I can't read the recipe I linked. At least for the queso fresco recipe I linked above, it wanted the milk and rennet to only get up to 90F, and then once you've got the curd formation, heat it to 115F. So 'almost boiling' sounds too hot.

But really, I'd follow a tested recipe from an extension office. (Or the Fankhauser's cheese page recipes, but those were always a little intimidating for me.)

(You should totally try the queso fresco recipe. It's easy and good. Don't skimp on the salt, though. You might even increase it a hair.)
posted by leahwrenn at 2:54 PM on January 8, 2014

Salvaged! Many thank yous.
posted by aniola at 3:08 PM on January 8, 2014

Ultrapasteurized milk can't be made into cheese, and it's easier to make cheese out of non-homogenized milk.

Oh, crap. Is this possibly why I can't make yogurt anymore? I used to make it every month, until one month where my tried and true technique completely stopped working.
posted by kanewai at 3:15 PM on January 8, 2014

I believe ultrapasteurized milk is usually labeled as such, and is different than just regular ol' pasteurization. I haven't had any problems with making yogurt lately, so it must be either the culture you're using, or the milk you're buying.
posted by Think_Long at 3:44 PM on January 8, 2014

Most organic milk I've found is ultra pasteurized, although not always labeled as such. Check the expiration date; if it's much longer than the regular milk it's the problem.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:09 PM on January 8, 2014

Just gotta second Fankhauser's cheese page. I made the neufchatel recipe, having never made anything like cheese before, and it turned out perfectly. He really explains WHY certain steps are taken, too.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:59 PM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

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