The main reason that cheese makers salt brine their cheese is to slow down or completely stop the bacteria process of converting lactose to lactic acid. A lot of lactose is removed during the process. If cheesemakers were not to salt the cheese, the residual moisture will contain enough lactose to produce more acid than ideal for proper curd ripening. Another reason for salt brining is for the cheese flavor.
The moisture is also pulled from the surface to begin forming the rind of the cheese when it is salted. This also tends to allow many molds to grow.
How To Brine Cheese
Firstly, we need to determine when to salt the cheese. Cheese will be ready for brining once the final pressing has been completed and the cheese has been moved to a cool cave to stabilize the temperature. If you were to brine warm cheese, it will cause the rate of salt absorption to increase which ultimately causes over salting.
Once your cheese is ready and prepared, pour your brine into a none reactive pan. Here is a good, simple brine formula if you don’t have any brine in mind:
Add 2 lbs of salt to 1 gallon of water, then add 1 tbs. calcium chloride (30% solution) and 1 Tsp. white vinegar.
The result of that will be saturated brine at 5.2 pH, suitable for most cheeses.
Once the brine is in the pan, place your cheese into it. The cheese will float because of the density of the brine, resulting in the surface of the cheese rising out of the brine. You have to keep this in mind because the surface of the cheese will not get salted during the brine process like the rest of the cheese. To fix this, you can simply add a small amount of salt to the surface of the cheese. This will allow your cheese to form its own brine because of the surface moisture.
How long it takes to brine cheese varies depending on the shapes and densities of the cheese. A general tip is to brine for 1 hour per lb. per each 1 inch thickness of cheese. For example, a dense low moisture cheese like Parma will need more time than a moist open texture cheese.
How you should handle cheese after brining is an important step also. It should be drained and allowed to air dry for a day or so, turning it when needed. Once the surface is dry and firm, the cheese can then be waxed or the process for developing natural rind can begin.
Other Useful Information Surrounding Salting With A Brine
How much salt is enough?
Adding salt until the salt no longer dissolves when added is the way to go. This means the brine is made up of a saturated strength.
How do you make the brine as good as possible?
Keeping the brine as cool a temperature as possible is ideal for the brine. A lot of the time people keep it at around 50-55F and store it in the cool cave area to keep it cool.
How long will the brine keep?
Brine can keep for around a year or two. Even if it gets moldy or looks bad, you can just bring it to a boil and re-filter it. Generally, good brine gets better with time.