This is the situation at present regarding starter cultures on the farm:
For a while now we’ve noticed that our trusted starter culture (the strain we saved from extinction by sending the last remaining sachet to Charlie Westhead to give to Barber’s Starter Culture Lab to propagate and is now used in stitchelton and mrs kirkhams) is losing it’s ummmph. i.e. it is taking longer to reach it’s correct acidity. A certain level of acidity is required to discourage some of the less desireable bacterias.
The lack of acidity is probably down to ” phage” (pron. farge) – a bacteria that makes cultures less effective, which can occur If you use one strain of culture seven days a week. Our other long serving culture is also weakening. So in the last few months we’ve tried a new one. You may remember cheeses made with this culture – I found them more acidic than I was used to. Also the resulting appearance of the cheese was quite extreme. Even one month old cheeses had the prounounced pie crust rim of something in excess of three months old. Although they looked gnarly and great it made them quite fragile. As a result Maugan has decided to stop using this and is trialling a new strain of culture. The early signs look positive – more in keeping with what he and Kim are after. So in total we’ll be alternating between three cultures. This is the accepted way to avoid phage – so fingers crossed.