I GOT MILK… (picture me with a milk moustache… would have been a great header for this post but… just couldn’t do it… don’t like milk in its natural state… picture gag reflex). Above is what I will be making (or starting) this weekend. RACLETTE… (This is one I made 6 months ago) This cheese dates back to medieval times and is often served HOT AND MELTED… poured onto potatoes and charcuterie. (See picture below… same cheese melted at one of our dinner parties… we like to add “lardons”) I am very proud of this batch. You should take note of the rind (the orangie pinky outer layer). This comes from bi-weekly washing with a light brine and B. linens (Brevibacterium linens… often found on skin.. causes foot order… imagine how this was introduced into the cheese by a medieval stinky footed cow herder… I bet by accident… maybe by straining curds through his/her socks??? and now I carry on his/her tradition with intent and pride… you also see why these recipes use to be secret.)
Please read on… I will be posting the recipe and steps… (three day process) and it will be nail biting excitement… (or don’t read… buy some in the store… especially if you have never tried raclette… then melt and eat… )
Raclette Ingredients: (each culture and additive includes links to cheesemaking.com page again… all credits to them for this recipe!!!)
- 4.5 gallons of raw fresh milk (if you don’t have raw you can use any milk except Ultra pasteurized milk but will need to add Calcium Chloride– 4 teaspoons )
- 3 oz of yogurt…( freshly made see Friday)
- 1/2 teaspoon of Rennet ( enzyme found in baby cows stomach… cool and gross at the same time)
- 1 packet of buttermilk culture
FRIDAY – Night
Make yogurt (so far easy-peasy)!!!… Cheesemaking.com recommends this yogurt.. I have made it with several types and above is one I often use *bought in France… (follow instructions…found on yogurt package) usually calls for about 1 liter of milk… and that is about 1/4 a gallon (if you are following the math… of the 4.5 gallons.. you will use .25 gallons for yogurt and the rest for the cheese… don’t add calcium chloride to this milk if not using raw milk)
In my opinion there are two BIG rules… when making cheese:
- RULE 1: Start with the highest quality of milk (and freshest… mine is never older than a day or two… meaning no later than two days from the time it left the cow)
- RULE 2: Sterilize everything and keep everything absolutely CLEAN
Here is a TIP… I journal each batch… with notes and make small adjustments… I have never had two batches of the same cheese come out exactly the same. I put in as many details as I can so if I produce an excellent cheese… I can try to reproduce it by trying to see if it was because of something I did… unfortunately it could be because of the time of year and what the cows are eating as well… (some cheeses are made at only certain times of the year...)
I start really early in the morning and create a corner in the kitchen that is “off limits” until the cheese is in the press.
Here Is the EQUIPEMENT:
- Bamboo Mats (for drying sterilized equipment… and keeping things off any surfaces that aren’t boiled)
- Stirring Spoon
- Large Curd knife (I think mine is a frosting spreader thing… the shape is what matters)
- Large Pot (enough for 6 gallons… and need to created a double boiler… I use a large wok under the pan)
- Large Hard Cheese Mold
- Cheese Press (I initial made my own…one of the weights fell off the press during the night and broke my wife’s slate sink… so I invested in a press and it was a wise choice)
- Cheese Cloth
SO HERE ARE THE STEPS… (This may read long but it is not that bad… I am just being detailed… If I leave off something or am not clear… please leave any questions as comments)
Step 1: Clean Sterilize everything… I boil everything… even though I have previously washed everything with an industrial sanitizer. (I also only use this equipment for cheese… nothing but cheese)
Step 2: Heat milk to 90 F and then add butter milk culture to top. Let sit 2 minutes and then stir the culture along with the fresh yogurt into the milk using bottom to top stirs. (I count to at least 50 stirs… not sure that matters)
Step 3: Let milk and cultures ripen for 30 minutes. (bacteria ranching… as I like to think of it… these little guys are consuming all fo the sugars in the milk…and are important in the fermentation process… when they die… they leave behind enzymes which break down the protein and create the flavor… so fascinating…. The Magic of cheese…)
Step 4: Coagulate Milk: (THIS IS SO COOL… starting with four gallons of milk and in 45 minutes having a solid… tofu like mass). Add Rennet to 1/4 cup of bottled watter than pour into milk… I pour through my spoon to help make the pour even. Stir well again top to bottom and then let it sit 45 minutes absolutely still. (Rennet is an enzyme that breaks apart one of the protein molecules in the milk protein which then makes the milk protein molecule hydrophobic… and they become “attracted” to each other…hence the formation of a solid mass… almost a scientific explanation…)
Step 5: The coagulation time is an estimate… (don’t add more rennet…it may become bitter… if not setting up try more time first) Curd needs a clean break… (see pictures). Cut Curd into one inch cubes and let sit 5 minutes. After 5 minutes… cut curds again into about 1/4 inch pieces…(think black bean… but white). This is releasing the whey….and you can do this both by knife and by spoon.
Step 6: This part frankly sucks…But it could be worse… this cheese has a fairly short “stirring” stage. For the next 30 minutes stir curds constantly while slowly (over the 30 minutes) bringing the temperature up to 100 F. You can become tired especially if the pot is tall. I stand on a chair and that way I do not have to lift my arm up as much… (sometimes I sweet talk my wife into it… I can’t believe she actually will do it for me…)
Step 7: Drain/Remove whey(I do this with a strainer and a cup and then place curds into a cheese cloth lined mold
Step 8: Progressively press the cheese… This means press, remove cheese from press, mold, and cheese cloth, flip cheese, re-wrap cheese, put back into mold, press with more weight. Continue the process over the next two hours (or about two hours)… (I have tried to cheat at this and it results a cheese that has gaps … the curd was not consolidated well). Here is my schedule.
- 15 minutes at 5 pounds (do the remove, flip, remold as described above)
- 30 minutes at 15 pounds
- 45 minutes at 25 pounds
- 60 minutes at 40 pounds
Step 9: Press the cheese at 50 pounds for the next 8 – 12 hours… not removing it… bothering it… yelling at it…. just leave it be…..
SATURDAY Night through SUNDAY Morning
Step 10: Brine for 12 hours: Brine is made by heating up 1 gallon of water then adding 2.25 pounds of Non-Iodized (look for the warning label that says “this salt does not supply iodide, a necessary nutrient”… guess what… not necessary for cheese…) 1 Tablespoon of calcium chloride and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. (I keep this mix covered in a cool dark space…and reuse for about a month or two)
These two picture show the cheese out of the press (isn’t it beautiful… no rind yet but still beautiful…) and the second shows the cheese in the brine… I have a small piece that fits between the cheese and the lid that keeps it under the brine… if you don’t you must put salt on the top and flip it half way through…
Step 11: Remove cheese from brine, pat dry and place in cheese cave (wine fridge in my case) at 56 F and 88% humidity (I use a small personal humidifier) and age for at least 90 days. Washing with brine and b. linens (add b.linens to some diluted brine and keep that separate)… twice a week during the aging.
This is all!!! Please give it a try. Cheesemaking is something we no longer consider doing… and we should…. I can’t promise you will save money (1 gallon of milk… creates about .8 pounds of cheese)… but the cheese will be spectacular. You will also be in complete awe of the ingenuity of the people who lived before us and figured out how to do this… If you try drop a comment would love to hear about your experience..
By the way with the left over yogurt…you could make lemon yogurt cakes… (that is what I did… and you could be like me!)