Cheesecloth and Butter Muslin
Cheesecloth is a loosely woven cloth used for lining colanders, making draining sacks, covering air-drying cheeses, making smoking sacks, and bandaging both hard and soft cheeses.
Butter Muslin is a tightly woven cloth, much like a flour sack material. Butter muslin is used for draining, pressing, and bandaging both hard and soft cheeses.
Cheesecloth and butter muslin are both very important to the cheesemaking process. They both have their different uses and each is better for different things. Cheesecloth, with its loose weave, is better for bandaging and air-drying cheese, because it allows more air to access the cheese. It is also better to use cheesecloth when making a cheese that is dry in texture, because it will allow for a more thorough draining.
Butter muslin is great for draining moist cheeses and soft cheeses, because it doesn’t allow for complete draining of vital moisture and butterfats, and it's good for holding in small, soft curds.
You can purchase cheesecloth at pretty much any grocery store, and it is cheap and easily replaceable. However, for just those reasons, the cheesecloth you buy at the grocery store is not really the type you would want to wash and reuse. If you want to be able to reuse your cheesecloth you will have to find some better quality cloth online or at a cheesemaking supply house.
Butter muslin is usually harder to find, because it is really only used for cheesemaking. But any place that sells good cheesecloth will usually sell good butter muslin too, although it might be slightly more expensive. All butter muslin can be washed, dried, and reused as many times as you like, but smells, flavors, and pieces of curd will stick to tightly woven butter muslin more readily than it will to cheesecloth, so you will have to be very diligent in keeping it clean so as not to impart weird or off flavors to your next batch of cheese.
To reuse cheesecloth or butter muslin, rinse it out immediately after using it. If it was just used to drain curds, you won’t have as much to worry about as if you used it to press cheese or age cheese for a long period of time. Once the cheesecloth is rinsed, you can either toss it in the washer (don’t use detergent or softeners on it, and wash it by itself) or you can wash it under hot water in the sink. If there are bits of curd sticking to it, whey can be used to remove it. If you want to give it an extra bit of sterilization, you can boil the cheesecloth or butter muslin for about 5 minutes before hanging it out to dry. Cheesecloth and butter muslin take mere minutes to dry, so keep an eye on them. Letting them hang out for a long time can allow them to collect airborne germs and bacteria, which can cause problems with future batches. When the cheesecloth or butter muslin is dry, take it down, then fold it up and store it in a zipper-style plastic bag until you are ready to use it again.
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