a cheese crisis

Remember how I read The Art of Natural Cheesemaking and then started using kefir? Remember how the author claimed you couldn’t detect the flavor of kefir in cheese? Remember how I said I could taste a hint of kefir, but that maybe that was just because the cheese was young? 

You can probably see where this is going. 

People, I can taste the kefir. It’s not super strong, and after the first bite I don’t really notice it, but still. It’s there and I don’t like it. To add insult to injury, I’m also noticing a funk taste with the cheeses cultured with yogurt. 


I feel like I’m really beginning to get the hang of making cheeses. I have a good sense of the rhythms. I understand what the curd should feel like. I can (fairly) accurately guess the temperature of the milk without a thermometer. Instead of worrying about the exact pressing weight, I look for other clues, like the milkiness of the run-off whey and how well the curd is knitting together. 

mid-press, a yogurt-cultured Asiago: verdict due next month

And yet I feel like I’m back at square one with the most basic element: the stupid culture. And the worst part? I’ve made nearly a dozen cheeses using kefir — about sixty pounds of cheese. If I wasn’t so mad, I’d cry.

To be fair, the cheeses aren’t horrible. We can (and will) still eat them, and there’s always the chance that the funk will dissipate as they age, but I’m not counting on it. 


Either way, kefir is out. Yogurt, too. While I’m not fully convinced that yogurt culture is a bad thing (I’ve made some delicious cheeses that were cultured entirely with yogurt), I’m not willing to risk it. I never even got around to using buttermilk as a culture, and now there’s no way. I’m too scared. So until someone convinces me otherwise, or I take an actual natural cheesemaking class, I’m back to freeze-dried cultures. 

this dill Havarti (made withOUT kefir, thank you very much) smells ridiculously amazing

In other news: I think I’ve figured out Camemberts! I had a couple fairly disastrous attempts (the plastic molds didn’t work, the salt levels were whack), but I’m getting better at it.

fresh out of the molds

look at all that glorious fuzz!

after a couple weeks in the fridge

The only problem is that once these cheeses are ripe, they need to be eaten, and we can only consume so many Camemberts.

melty-soft at room temp, mmm

Wait — would these freeze? I must research.

This same time, years previous: Danny Boy, the quotidian (2.17.20), Thursday thoughts, beef jerky, in my kitchen: 11:50 a.m., the quotidian (2.17.14), Monday blues, digging the ruffles, chicken pot pie.


  • Lizabeth

    Hi! I only do unaged cheeses, and not having access to raw milk where I live, I must use organic pasteurized milk. I do use organic cultured buttermilk as my starter culture, and I have not had a funky cheese, aside from the one and only time I decided to use whey from a batch of American Neufchatel as the culture for the next batch. That cheese was not good…there was a sharp, bitter undernote that marred the flavor.
    I remember my grandmother making fresh cheeses from our raw milk, and I recall that when she “cooked” the curd for pressed fresh cheese, she washed the curds after draining the whey, then hung the washed curds to drain again, before pressing them into a disc.
    My favorite was a pressed cheese that she flavored with salt and cracked black pepper.

  • Becky R.

    You and I feel the same way about kefir in general. But I am surprised that you can taste the yogurt. Hopefully the taste will dissipate as it ages. I know this is terribly disappointing, Jennifer! So much time and work for a product that just isn’t what you envisioned. Does anyone in your “cheese club” have any experience with this? Congratulations on your success with Camembert! You will prevail, you always do, so keep the faith.

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