This post is Part 4 of the continued basic home cheese making instructions. See the Curd Nerd Beginner Page or the Basic Instructions category for previous parts.
You’ve waited patiently, letting the Rennet do it’s thing and now you have a lovely firm, set curd.
Most recipes will instruct you to cut the curd at this point.
The only recipes that might skip this step and instead direct you to ladle your curd from the pot straight into molds without cutting are recipes like Camembert and Brie.
In this case you are effectively slicing the curd as your ladle it out of the pot and this keeps the curd at a larger size, retaining more moisture for these softer, creamier cheeses. I personally use this method but others use the cutting method even for soft cheeses. Experiment and discover which method you prefer.
But let’s get back to cutting the curds. Again, depending on the recipe, you will need to cut the curds into a certain size. Many are 1cm, some are smaller. Either way, the point of cutting the curds is to determine the rate and amount of whey being released. So the type of cheese you are making, soft or hard, will guide how small the curd needs to be.
What You Want From Cutting The Curd
When cutting the curd you are aiming for a uniform, consistent cube of curd. Crushed curds, or lots of smaller uneven curds, will result in increased loss of butterfat and milk solids and you could end up with a drier, crumblier cheese.
Cutting the curd can seem difficult at first and takes a bit of practice to get the hang of but don’t panic about it too much. Just keep making more cheese until it becomes easier ; )
Curd Cutting Tool
Cheese Curd Cutter
There are proper cheese curd cutters available, like this one:
But most home cheese makers either use a long blade, straight edge knife or a long length palette knife like this:
To begin cutting the curds put your knife or palette in at the point from the edge of the pot that matches your required size. Cut through the curd from one side of the pot to the other, making sure you run the knife right down to the bottom of the pot.
Move the knife across the same distance as the required curd size and repeat.
Continue moving across the pot until you have cut equal lines across from one side to the other.
Turn the pot 90 degrees and then follow the same method as above until you end up with a checkerboard like effect with your cuts.
Now put your knife back in at a 45 degree angle this time, and cut the same distance, keeping your knife on the angle.
Turn the pot 90 degrees and do the same covering the curd that won’t have been cut in the above step.
When you have completed these steps let the curd rest for 5 minutes.
Then VERY carefully use your ladle to turn the curds over so you can bring up any bigger pieces that haven’t been cut and cut these to the required curd size. As I say, don’t panic too much of you can’t get this technique perfect, as long as all of the curds are roughly the required size.
When you first cut the curds you will notice the whey is a white-ish colour as some of the butterfat will have been released. Your whey will then take on a green-ish colour as the butterfat seems to disappear. This green-ish colour is normal.
If you are making a harder cheese like Parmesan your required curd size might be smaller than you can successfully cut with a knife. For these cheeses a whisk is often used after the initial curd cutting, to reduce the size of the curd down to the smaller size required. The whisk is gently moved through the curds to cut the cubes already created. It is extremely important that you don’t use the whisk as you normally would, whisking up the curd, otherwise you will completely break the curds down and end up with a solid brick of cheese. Just gently move the whisk through the curd and let it slice the cubes carefully until you have your required size.
Once your curds are all cut, let them rest and heal for 5 minutes before proceeding to the next step in your recipe.
Do you have any questions or comments about Cutting Curd? Join the discussion over at the Curd Nerd Forum. We would love to hear from you!