Monday, March 15, 2010

Provolone Success Story!

This is a letter written by one of our customers, Carlo Milano, to Ricki:

Thanks for all this (blog and newsletter) - your book got me going a good thirteen years ago. I avoided "soft-ripened" cheeses, but have had recent phenomenal success with both a Camembert and a blue cheese (Stilton style), but I have yet to venture into the red mold world.

I just made my first Provolone on New Year's Day, and it came out fabulously - you make it very much like a mozzarella, but the curds are cut and 'cheddared' and when you put it in a brine, you can add a drop or two of 'liquid smoke." Instead of small spheres, you have to deal with a large mass of stretchy cheese.  I was intimidated at first, but as soon as I was able to stretch a pound of curd to 12x12, I was convinced it would work out right. I'd strongly recommend not using citric acid and letting the thermophilic culture do its thing. Slow Food.

Two weeks of aging later, my wife and I are extremely pleased with my results. We were going to wait for three weeks, but it looked *so* good! Some lipase will go into my next batch.

Note: We asked Carlo if he used our recipe in Home Cheese Making and he said he didn’t have a copy of the new book. He had our previous version, Cheesemaking Made Easy, which did not have a Provolone recipe.) His response:

I used a combination hybrid recipe, combining the recipe from "Cheesemaking Practice" (R. Scott)* - Ricki has a copy, IIRC - and "Cheese and Fermented Milk Foods, Vol. II: Procedures and Analysis" (Frank V. Kosikowski and Vikram V.Mistry).

I am blessed with a 250-mile-away source of raw Holstein/non-organic milk, so when we visit the farm - XMas most regularly - I bring back a few gallons. This dairy is in Visalia, California, and I was inspired by my Frisian in-laws to make Gouda when a relative from Holland brought some homemade cheese over for some family get-together.

I've had some missteps with raw milk - over soured or something - but I'm getting better; I've been more consistent with store-bought organic non-homogenized (but pasteurized) for some reason. This was the first time I actually pasteurized the milk, so maybe that is the key. I always strive to learn something, but I've always appreciated the concept of  'raw.'

I made this from one gallon of farm-fresh whole, pasteurized milk where the milk was less than 30 hours old. I used a thermophilic culture that I prepped the day before (so it looked like yogurt), about 2 ounces. I let it ripen a little bit longer than R. Scott recommends (F.V.Kosikowski has no ripening, which calls for immediate rennet intro). I used double-strength vegetable rennet (yes, from your company) that has done well for me in my Brie/Camembert/Bleu efforts.

I 'cheddared' the curds after stirring and removing whey until I could taste the acidity and it fell in the right range of pH. It was just like making a cheddar!

Now for the pasta filata massage!

I had to use knit gloves inside rubber gloves to massage the curds. Having worked with wooden paddles for Moz, this was a real trip - plain rubber kitchen gloves were not thick enough for sufficient handling, but a little bit of 'buffer' with another inner, cloth glove, and it was comfortable and totally rewarding. Think: Grin from ear-to-ear!

A gallon of properly acidulated curds will stretch quite a bit, especially ALL AT ONCE! I stretched it as far as my arms would permit. Glossy, squeaky, and ready to keep warm enough to shape into a nice sphere about 5" around.

It is drier than Moz, and I felt it required more stretching and the attendant loss of curd-whey. I think the moisture content is just right.

I brined it for a day and a half with just a small drop of "liquid smoke" (available at most supermarkets). Air dried for a day, then surface moistened to be salted with dry salt for a half-day, then cleaned, dried, oiled with nice olive oil, and placed in a cloth "mesh" to hang in a cool (but not cold) area for two weeks.

Critique: the rind is a little bit too thick and I think I can make it closer to perfection by making a smaller, enclosed environment. Usually, I have 40-45F and 80-95% humidity for cheese aging, but this really calls for a robust flavor and warmer temperatures, but I think I was in the 55-65% humidity.

I think a tupperware will retain the right humidity, so maybe a cloth mesh is too premature and is more appropriate to 'waxed' aging. Who knows? With experimentation, persistence, repetition, and good note-taking, I'll get this right. Hard to get a specific type from a recipe.

I'll add some lipase next time - I was pre-occupied with the process, not the ingredients - and I also had a vegetarian friend who wanted some.

"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"

(Cheesemaking) Practice!

* "Cheesemaking Practice" by R. Scott is a great book. Unfortunately, it is out of print and we have not been able to locate the former publisher. If we ever do, we will publish the book ourselves so we can all enjoy it.


BBJAM said...

Hi, very cool provolone.
I would like to ask a question not related to this post:
In 'Home Cheesemaking' in the section on manchego it says that it can be '... aged in olive oil for over one year'. What does that mean exactly? Does it go from the brine directly into the oil, or does it dry first? Should it be placed in a oil filled, air tight container, or some other way? Do you need to change the oil? What temperature does it like?
Perhaps one of the bloggers here could do a post about manchego.

Jim Wallace said...

This could be a whole new topic but it would fall into the natural rind department.
Many cheese rinds are prepared by drying down to a firm rind (3-10 days post brine). The oiled rind is then rubbed with just a small amount of olive oil. This is re-coated every week or so and after about 2-3 months it only needs more oil every month so.
I find that working this way the rind becomes quite easy to maintain. Generally they need 52-56F and 85% moisture. They do need to be turned every few days because mold tends to grow on the bottom side. Simply wiping with a cloth when turning is enough to control the mold.

I tend not to do Manchego as such because I have difficulty getting ewes milk here.

... jim wallace

P said...

I found "Cheesemaking Practice" on, publisher - Springer (Chapman and Hall Food Science Book)3rd. ed., Price $165.00!

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Anonymous said...

I was up all night trying to make provolone, I couldn't for the life of me get my water up to 175-180 to cause the cheese to obsorb the heat so I could stretch it, was so frustrating.