Begin by heating the milk to 95-97F (warmer during the colder months and with higher fat%).
Once the milk is at the target temperature the cultures are to be added:
This may seem like a small amount of culture because Asiago depends on a very slow acid development and much of this will take place on the second day while the cheese rests in the mold before salting.
The milk should then be allowed to ripen for 30 minutes before adding rennet.
Coagulation with rennet:
Add 5 ml of a single strength calf rennet once the milk has ripened.
Enough rennet is added to form a good curd in about 25 minutes.
Stir the rennet into the milk in an up and down manner so that the milk quickly comes to rest.
Once the curd begins to set you will notice a thickening (photo on the left) as the surface tension increases. It is still too soft to cut at this point.
When the full coagulation develops the curd will split cleanly (as in the photo on right).
Cutting curds and releasing the whey:
Once the curd has firmed it can be cut into about 3/8-1/2 inch pieces.
The curds should then be slowly stirred for about 15-20 minutes until they become firmer. The temperature should be adjusted to the original culture temp.
Heating the Final curds:
Once the curds are firm, the heating of the curd begins by heating to 106F in 20 minutes. It is then held at this temp while stirring slowly for 15 min.
During the next 10 minutes, the heat is increased to 118F (during cool weather or with high fat % milk it may need to go as high as 123F).
At this point the curd should be dry enough but will need to produce more acid before draining. This can be accomplished by allowing the curd to settle to the bottom for another 20 minutes. They should be stirred lightly to keep from matting every 3-5 minutes.
Draining the curds:
Asiago needs to be drained well while keeping the curds separate. This will allow for the somewhat open texture of this cheese.
Molding and pressing the cheese:
The curds are now transferred to a cloth lined mold.
This weight remains for 30 min. then removed, turned in the cloth, and the follower replaced.
The cheese is now pressed with 25 lbs of weight for the next 2 hours then turned, re-wrapped and the same weight applied for another 2 hours.
At this point the cheese should be well consolidated. The weight can be removed and the cheese replaced in the mold.
The mold should be kept warm overnight at 75-85F while the bacteria continues to work producing more acid in the cheese. No salt should be added on the second day and again it is held overnight.
On the third morning the cheese will be brined in a saturated brine at a rate of 3 hrs per lb. of cheese.
The cheese is now ready to be aged for 30-40 days.
The aging temperature is 54-58F and humidity of 85-87% should be maintained. Any surface mold should be wiped away with a saturated brine solution.