Morbi-YAY! (Recipe Testing, Part 2)
Another weekend, another cheese. Things have been intense on the cheese making front here. In the last couple of weeks I’ve made the near-disastrous Jarlsberg, cottage cheese from leftovers, an improvised pasta filata cheese (more on that in a coming post), and now, Morbier.
My latest test recipe for the San Francisco Milk Maid’s upcoming cheese making manual is in the style of a traditional French cheese. Morbier is from the Jura mountains in eastern France and is recognizable by the black stripe that runs horizontally through the center of the wheel. Morbier is also kind of a leftovers cheese. When not enough curd was left at the end of the day to make a whole wheel, the cheese maker would sprinkle the half-wheel with a covering of black vegetable ash to preserve the curd until morning. The next day, fresh curds would be put in on top of the ash layer and the whole thing pressed, with the ash making a fine black line through the center of the wheel.
Today, Morbier curd is made all in one batch, and the ash line simply added for the sake of tradition, which is how I went about things too. I had much better results than I did with the Jarlsberg, and this recipe offered a lot of new firsts for me too. One was the vegetable ash and the other was a new bacteria additive known as Brevibacterium Linens or B. Linens ( I like the quasi-gangsta sound of the foreshortened bacteria names, don’t you? B. Linens. P. Diddy Candidum. G. Dog-forti…)
Aaanyway. B. Linens made two appearances in this recipe. A tiny pinch was added to the warmed milk during culturing and more is being swabbed over the exterior of the cheese on a daily, and soon weekly, basis now that it’s aging. B. Linens is also used in Limburger cheese (the smelliest of the smelly) and is actually the same bacteria that makes your feet stink, so you know this will be one odoriferous cheese. But I’m excited. I have a yen for washed rind cheeses (Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk is one of my favorites and applies B. Linens to a gooey triple-cream.) Washed rind cheeses are typically some of the smellier and more colorful wheels (often having a reddish rind), but have some of the milder, milkier flavors. The regular washing helps the rind stay less tough and more like the paste it’s surrounding. Washing solution can be a salt brine or a spirit of some kind, like brandy or beer. I would love to try a beer wash some time, but my current Morbier is being sponged down with a salt water brine spiked with a little B. Linens powder. Washed rinds take more constant care and maintenance, but I think it will pay off. I am keeping the wheel in an aging box in my cave where it is nice and humid, just the way B. Linens likes it.
The vegetable ash was another fun additive to play with. It’s literally charred up vegetables and totally edible, but tasteless. It’s messy stuff too; very fine and easily scattered. The recipe even said to wear gloves and work in a draft-less area. I didn’t wear gloves, but didn’t have too much trouble until it was time to press the cheese. There was still enough moisture in the curds that the whey floated the vegetable ash and leaked it out the sides of the cheese. I don’t know if that is normal, and I hope there is still some ash inside the wheel to make the ash line. The outside of the cheese got coated though, making it look like a ball of black and white marble, which is coincidental (or maybe not), because the recipe plays on the protected Morbier name by calling it Marbler.
Lastly, I have a brief follow-up on the Kadova mold. Remember, the last time I used it with the Jarlsberg, the mesh insert melded with the curds and stuck indelibly to the wheel. I had to scrape it off with a knife, ruining the rind of the cheese, and requiring emergency vacuum sealing to save it. This time I was admittedly too chicken to use the mold again – or at least the mesh inserts. Instead, I lined the Kadova mold with cheese cloth, wrapped it over the top of the wheel, and used the follower for pressing. Things went much, much better and my wheel came out perfectly, with an intact rind, which is fortunate, because there would be no vacuum salvation for this natural rind cheese that needs bathing on a regular basis.