ALL ABOUT ANNATTO

Annatto is a natural food colourant made from the seeds of the achiote shrub, which is commonly grown in Mexico and the USA. Annatto is often added to cheese and ice-cream to make them light to deep yellow or orange (depending on how much is added). Cheese will often deepen in colour once the curds are drained and then deepen further during the aging process. Commercial processed cheeses are often coloured, and old habits seem to make orange cheese taste better than the same cheese uncoloured (white), however cheese platters do look pleasing with various colours and textures of cheese. Many traditional recipes will include a colour - and it is nice to follow a method that has been used for generations when making cheese at home. Remember, this step is up to you! 
   
LIQUID ANNATTO
The most common form of annatto is a water-based solution. Store liquid annatto in an airtight dropper bottle in the refrigerator. It will keep like this for a VERY long time and can be used until it forms dark crystals, which is when it needs to be replaced. Dilute annatto with a 1/4 cup of filtered water before adding into the milk. Add annatto BEFORE adding calcium chloride and/or rennet and do not mix with salt directly. Please note that if you are buying liquid annatto in very large amounts check that is the water soluble solution – it is also available as a fat soluble solution for colouring butter. Remember to measure liquid annatto carefully – a little goes a long way! Report any quantity changes in your cheese-making log.
USAGE EXAMPLE: 1-1.25 teaspoons annatto per 8 litres milk = deep orange coloured cheese
         0.25 teaspoon annatto per 8 litres milk = mild gold colour i.e. Colby
Marbled/mottled cheese is achieved by colouring half of your batch and mixing the coloured/uncoloured curds into the press
   
POWDERED ANNATTO
Requires mixing with the addition of heat to ensure it is dissolved properly before use i.e. added during pasteurisation (if using your own fresh cow’s milk). For adding to store-bought pasteurised milk, dissolve the powdered annatto into hot water, cool down and then add to the milk as required.
   
OTHER NATURAL CHEESE COLOURS
Some cheesemakers like to use carrot juice; however carrot juice has 100 times less beta-carotene (the pigment) than annatto and adds a carrot flavour to your cheese. Food colouring is also water based, however it is more acidic and may interfere with the curd development. Browsing your local beer/cheese-making supplier may have other water based food colouring agents you can use.

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