Here at Curd-Nerd I’ve mentioned Calcium Chloride a few times, mostly in relation to brine solutions, and you may have also seen it listed as an ingredient in the cheese recipe books you have.
So what is Calcium Chloride and should you be using it?
Calcium Chloride (CaCI2) is a salt solution, which is used in cheese making to restore the calcium balance of milk.
If you use store bought, homogenized and pasteurized milk for cheese making you will more than likely need to add Calcium Chloride to rebalance the calcium content of milk as the manufacturing processes of pasteurization, heating and rapidly cooling the milk, and homogenization decreases the amount of calcium in the milk and can affect the clotting properties.
This will be noticeable by a slower coagulation of the milk after adding the Rennet, a softer, less stable curd and in some cases where the calcium levels are extremely low, no coagulation at all.
Adding Calcium Chloride to your milk brings the calcium content back into balance and will result in a firmer curd, that you will find much easier to cut and work with.
But it’s not just store bought milk that can benefit from Calcium Chloride. If you are using Goat’s Milk for cheese making, particularly when making hard cheeses, you may need to add Calcium Chloride to get a firm curd as Goat’s milk goes through a natural homogenization process in the animal’s body and without CaCI2 it may produce a curd that is too weak to cut properly.
And Calcium chloride is often also used with raw cows milk as well, as different feeding conditions; for example winter feeding, and the health of the animals can affect the calcium levels of the milk.
Ultimately, whether you do or don’t need Calcium Chloride for fresh, raw milk will depend purely on the quality of milk. I personally don’t or haven’t needed to add CaCI2 to the raw milk I use but if you find you are getting a weak curd from your milk supply, and you know your Rennet is still viable, you can try adding Calcium Chloride to remedy the problem.
It is important to add exactly the right amount of Calcium Chloride so that the curd firms up enough but is not compromised by too much CaCI2 to the point of being unusable. The recommended measure is ¼ teaspoon per gallon of milk and the Calcium Chloride is normally added to the milk before you start with your cheese making. Some cheese makers even prefer to add the CaCI2 to the milk in the stockpot the night before a make so that it has plenty of time to do it’s work rebalancing, before starting the cheese making process.
To add Calcium Chloride, simply dilute your CaCI2 in ¼ cup cool, distilled water, the same way you would with your Rennet, so it can then be stirred in evenly through the milk.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, and in previous posts, Calcium Chloride can also be used in your brine solutions to balance the calcium levels between brine and cheese, which can prevent your cheese ‘melting’ or going slimy when it is being preserved. This is a reasonably common issue and the addition of CaCI2 to the mix is usually a reliable solution as it establishes an even balance and stops the calcium from being leeched from the cheese into the brine, causing the cheese to soften and melt.
Food Grade Calcium Chloride should be available at your local homebrew store, at the chemist or online through cheese making supply companies.
If you have any questions about using Calcium Chloride, post them in the comments below and I will do my best to help you with the answers.