There are a wide variety of cheese cultures to choose from. Most recipes call for a specific culture, but if you want to experiment a bit or create your own recipe, it helps to know what a cheese culture is and what type of cheese each culture is best-suited for.
WHAT IS A CHEESE CULTURE?
A cheese culture is a group of specific bacteria strains for making different cheeses.
How do Cheese Cultures Work?
All cultures do the same basic work. Cheese cultures rapidly raise the acidity of the milk by consuming the lactose (milk sugar) present and converting it into lactic acid. This disables the already-present bacteria and helps the rennet (or coagulant being used) to set the cheese.
Starter cultures also aid in development and preservation of the flavor and body of the cheese during cheesemaking and afterwards, in the aging process.
Culturing Temperature of Cheese Cultures
Cheese cultures are often grouped by the temperature range at which they work.
- Mesophilic means medium-loving, indicating that a mesophilic culture will propagate best at temperatures up to 90ºF.
- Thermophilic means heat-loving. This type of culture is added to milk heated to higher temperatures.
MESOPHILIC CHEESE STARTER CULTURES
Specific Cheese Starter Cultures
There are several cheese cultures designed with a blend of bacteria for making one specific cheese. Each of these starter cultures includes complete instructions for use and some even include the rennet!
General Cheese Starter Cultures
There are also several cultures that have a more broad usage. These cultures contain several packets, so you can experiment with a variety of recipes from just one box of culture. Always consult your recipe, as other ingredients may be required for certain types of cheese.
- Fresh Cheese Culture is an aromatic mesophilic culture used in producing soft cheeses such as Cottage Cheese, Neufchatel, Chevre. It can also be used as the culture in flavorful aged cheese varieties such as Blue Cheese and Baby Swiss.
- Mesophilic Direct-Set Cheese Culture (MA11) is a versatile cheese culture that can be used to make flavorful semi-soft and fresh cheeses at home, from Cheddar, Colby, and Monterey Jack to Feta, Chèvre, and more.
- Mesophilic Aromatic Type B is another versatile cheese culture with a buttery flavor. It is used for making sour cream and cultured butter, soft cheeses such as goat cheese, cream cheese and cottage cheese, and other specialty cheeses such as havarti and camembert.
- Flora Danica Mesophilic Starter Culture also gives cheeses a buttery flavor. This culture is primarily used to make cheeses such as Gouda, Edam, Leerdam, Samsoe, and soft cheeses such as Lactic Cheeses, Camembert, and Blue Cheese.
- MM Series Starter Culture is used to make Brie, Camembert, Havarti, gouda, Edam, feta, blue cheese, chevre, and other buttery, open-textured cheeses.
- MA 4000 Series Farmhouse Cheese Culture resembles the bacteria balance in raw milk and creates an open texture ideal for many cheeses including Caerphilly, Brin D’ Amour, and Roquefort.
- RA22 Cheese Culture is a fast acidifying culture used for traditional cheddar and similar cheeses.
THERMOPHILIC CHEESE STARTER CULTURES
Thermophilic cheese cultures are used to make a variety of cheeses, sometimes in conjunction with a mesophilic culture.
- Thermophilic Direct-Set Starter Culture (TA 61) is used for making hard cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano, Provolone, Mozzarella, Emmental/Swiss
- Thermo B Cheese Culture is used for making Italian-style mozzarella, parmesan, romano, provolone, other Italian cheeses.
- Thermo C Cheese Culture is also used for making Italian cheeses. It is also well suited to making farmstead type cheeses, such as Emmentaler, gruyere, swiss, and romano
- Propioni Bacteria is used primarily for the eye formation, aroma, and flavor production in Swiss type cheeses.
Molds Used in Cheesemaking
Molds are responsible for giving some cheeses their specific flavor and texture. They are usually applied to the outside of the cheese where they form a crust.
- Penicillium Camemberti white mold spores are used for making Camembert and Brie cheeses and are essential in the ripening process of cheeses with white surface mold.
- Penicillium Roqueforti mold spores are used for making Blue Cheese and are essential in the ripening process.