We have wanted to make mini cheeses for some time but have lacked the equipment to do so.
There are several reasons behind us wanting to make little mini cheeses: firstly, because customers ask for mini waxed cheeses in the shop, secondly, our wholesale customers ask us on a regular basis, usually around this time of year, in preparation for Christmas and thirdly, two customers have recently asked us if we could make our cheese in mini format to sell all year round.
We stock our friends John and Bob’s cheeses in the shop which are around the 300g mark, 10cm wide and 4cm deep and they are very popular, we think, because of their portable size – and of course because they are very nice cheeses! All of this got me thinking….
Extruding Mini Cheeses
There are various ways of making mini cheeses: the main way most large cheese makers make mini cheeses is to mulch
up the cheese in a bowl chopper, transfer it to an extruder and extrude it into a sausage shape, about 10cm in diameter with an automatic cutter that cuts off at precise intervals, making a cheese disc.
Well, that’s how most people do it, but the equipment required is a bit out of our price range. A second hand bowl chopper costs in the region of £8,000 and a second hand extruder, anything from £3,000 upwards plus whatever modification work may be required to get the correct diameter.
Disadvantages to Extruding Cheese
I have always felt slightly reluctant to go down the extruded route, the equipment cost is too high a barrier for us. This is a huge capital outlay and as we are such small cheese makers, it would take far too long to pay back. This kind of equipment is geared up to making far more minis than we could deal with – think of the hand waxing involved!
I also feel there is not much texture to extruded cheese – it can be a little squishy, with none of the original texture remaining.
Quality of the base Cheese
Some cheese makers extrude cheese using returns and second and third grade cheese, whereas, we would be using our normal quality cheese as we don’t get returns. I am keen to find a way around extruding as I do not want to compromise on the quality of our cheese; everything we make is handmade the long way: hand stirred, hand cut, hand everything with a lot of care and it seems a real shame to spoil that by chopping and extruding it into a paste.
I do not see why mini cheeses cannot be decent, top quality cheese.
Wash Down and Wastage on Small Runs
We will not be making hundreds of minis at a time – we would not be able to hand wax this many at once. But the wash down time is the same, no matter how many you do and you can get a fair bit of wastage in the system.
Advantages of Extruding Cheese
Once the equipment is in place, it can be geared up to make hundreds if not more minis at a go and with an automatic cutter and check weigher, you can make consistent weights. We will have to weigh the curd out in to each mini which will be laborious.
Not to be defeated, I got talking to Greg, at Brytec, our equipment suppliers who had several discussions over their brew breaks and we went away and had many discussions over our coffee breaks when Greg came up with an idea.
Why not make a small vertical press for us with some mini moulds with followers so that we can put curd directly into the mini moulds after milling during the normal cheese making process. This means that the mini cheeses would be top grade cheese as if they were going to be made in to our usual 2kg wheels, but instead into small minis.
No extruding, just a normal press. A brilliant solution! And this will be an awful lot less expensive than buying a bowl chopper and an extruder and the modification work involved.
And here is another picture of our new press in Brytec’s workshop! It is not quite ready, but soon…very soon….We are very excited this end and can’t wait to start experimenting, making mini versions of our normal cheese and a range of blended cheeses – why not?
Thank you Brytec!
If you would like to speak to Brytec about your equipment requirements, Greg or Brian can be contacted on tel: 01772 786 500.