The “C” in question is Calcium Chloride. Many home cheesemaking recipes call for this ingredient but I don’t usually use it. Calcium Chloride is a salt solution that is supposed to restore balance to the calcium content of milk that has been heat-treated and homogenized (the majority of commercially available milks). These two processes decrease the calcium in milk and it becomes slightly destabilized. The result can be a soft and weak curd. Adding calcium chloride to the milk prior to adding rennet is supposed to boost the number of calcium ions in the milk which helps to firm up the curd, resulting in a higher yield.
This all sounds good, but the problem is, it doesn’t always seem to have much effect and in many cases where its use is suggested, it just isn’t really needed. For instance, most cheesemaking books suggest using it with goat’s milk because goat’s milk is naturally homogenized and it is said that without calcium chloride the curd is often weak and won’t cut properly. I can tell you from my own personal experience with farm fresh goat’s milk – even that which has been pasteurized – I have never found this to be the case! Those curds set up like a dream every time without the use of calcium chloride.
I asked my cheesemaking instructor, Larry Faillace from Three Shepherds Farm in Vermon,t whether or not he uses calcium chloride and his answer was this: “If you need calcium chloride, you have crappy milk.” That may be somewhat true, but “crappy” milk (e.g., store-bought pasteurized and homogenized milk) may be all many home-cheesemakers have access to!
So, the real question is, will adding calcium chloride actually help said crappy milk? My answer is…maybe, maybe not. In other words, sometimes I have found it to help a bit, and sometimes it seems to make no difference at all.
So, I guess the bottom line is this. Do some experimenting of your own, try making your cheeses with and without it, and see what you think. And if all else fails, just get better milk to begin with!
posted by Kate Johnson