Monday, April 29, 2013

A Recipe for Asiago Cheese

The Asiago cheese recipe that I will be outlining here is a flavorful cheese from Italy that my family absolutely loves.  This cheese taste good fresh and just gets more and more pungent the longer you let it age. 
To start off, I partially skim the cream off the cream from my milk to get 8 gallons of partially skimmed milk.
Next, after sanitizing my cheese vat, the thermometer, and stirring ladle, I pour all 8 gallons of milk into the vat and set it to medium-high heat on my largest burner.  Until the milk is heated to 92 degrees Fahrenheit, I stir the milk every couple of minutes while checking the temperature.
When the milk gets to 92 degrees.  Turn off the heat and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of thermophilic culture over the top of the milk.  I get my cultures, rennet, and cheese making supplies from and have found his prices to be spot on competitive.  He also has great turn around on products and wonderful customer service.

After the culture has moistened for a minute or two, I use the ladle to draw down the culture with up and down motions about 20 times to make sure it is fully incorporated into the milk.
For this recipe, I let the culture sit in the milk for 40 minutes.  After the 40 minutes, I stir the milk again and add in a 1/2 cup of water that has been mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of rennet.  Make sure to stir the rennet into the cultured milk really well, just like the culture had been stirred in, with about 20 up and down strokes, otherwise the cheese will not set properly.
  Now cover and let the pot sit for 1 hour maintaining the 92 degree temperature.  Just a note on maintaining temperature.  If you are making a small batch of cheese you will not be able to just turn off the heat and expect your cheese to maintain the same temperature unless your room is 90 degrees also.  But if you make a large batch with 8 gallons, it takes a long time for that must heat to disburse.  I have found that making larger batches is just easier for me since I have so much milk on hand and temperature maintenance is not a problem.
Yes, it is a HUGE pot
After 1 hour, your cheese should have set and it should look like milk jello.  
With a sanitized knife, I then cut the curd into pieces.

 And then the cut curds are left to firm up for 5 minutes.
  Next, the heat goes on at medium-high and the curds are heated while being stirred, on and off, until they reach 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
The curds are then let to settle while I sanitize the items I need to remove the curds and press them.

Now, with very clean hands, I scoop the curds out of the whey and put them into a stainer that is lined with a poly cheese cloth inside a natural cheese cloth.  The reason I double up the cloths is because when the curds are this warm when they are pressed they tend to stick to the natural cloth, but yet  it is nice to have the bigger cloth around the outside to hold all of the curds in for the first pressing.

 Next, I just lift up the cloth and move all the curds into the tomme mold.

With the cloth still around the curds, and put the mold into my cheese press with medium pressure for 1 hour.

 After an hour, I take the cheese out of the cloth, turn it upside down and re-wrap it with just a poly cheese cloth.

Now the cheese, in the mold, sits on my counter under medium pressure for 12 to 18 hours - the next morning is close enough for me.

In the morning I mix 1 cup of pickling salt with about 2 inches of cold water in a plastic container (see below).  And place the unwrapped cheese into the salt water brine.  Just a quick note, I cut my cheese into 2 pieces at this point because when I long term store my cheese for aging I vacuum seal them and the full cheese is too big for the sealing bags I use.  If you want a full round you do not have to cut your cheese in half like I do.

The cheese should sit in the brine for a total of 24 hours - 12 hours on each side.  Then, after being in the brine for 24 hours, take the cheese out, place it on a sanitized mat and put in the refrigerator for a few days to dry.  Then flip and dry for a few more days.
Your cheese, when completely dried, will be ready to eat or store.

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