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Asiago



A Roman flyer, after having admired the Altopiano from the sky landed his two-engine plane at the Asiago airport and exclaimed: "You have the most beautiful green meadows in the world, now I understand why your cheese is so good."
(Nereo Stella)

Asiago cheese is a D.O.P (protected designation of origin). It comes from the Asiago Plateau located in the Province of Vicenza between the Po River and the Southern mountain of the Valsugana valley. The area is a thousand meters above sea level and surrounded by mountains.

Asiago cheese is produced in two forms:

--- Fresh Asiago ("dolce" or "fresco"), also known as Pressato is an off-white color and is milder in flavor than the aged Asiago. It has an aroma slightly reminiscent of yogurt and butter. Its supple texture and pale color reflect its shorter aging period. The flavor is sweet, with a bright, youthful quality.
--- Mature Asiago, which is called Asiago d´Allevo. This has a more yellowish color and is somewhat grainy in texture with a more complex flavor/aroma. This is a cheese to be aged from 8 months to 2 years.

 

 

Our recipe below is for the fresh Asiago Pressato, an earlier ripening cheese made from full fat milk. The cheese is destined to become a fresh table cheese with a moist, sweet, buttery flavor and will be ready in 30-40 days.

 

Before you Start:

The batch size is 6 gallons but can be increased or decreased by altering the ingredients proportionately.
The milk for this recipe can be from either a pasteurized whole milk or a rich fresh farm milk. I have used an unpasteurized Jersey/ Normand mix with the fat% running close to 5%. If using pasteurized milk adding a little more cream could be an option for a richer cheese.
This cheese will also use 2 cultures:

  1. A Thermophilic culture such as our C201 or TA061 will acidify the cheese by converting lactose to lactic acid.
  2. The second culture will be a Helveticus culture (LH100) which is characterized by it's ability to convert only part of the milk sugar and leave a sweet note in the final cheese. This is also a component in most of the Alpine style Swiss cheeses.
    (Note: the LH100 is no longer available due to a much larger package and prohibitive pricing. The best plan is to use the pre-mix pack C201 as indicated below)


Acidifying and heating the milk:

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:

-- 3/4 to 1 pack of Ricki's  C201 (This pack already contains the Thermophilic PLUS Helveticus  mix)
                                 OR
-- 1/8 tsp of the TA061  PLUS 1/16 tsp of LH100.
(We no longer carry the LH culture so the C201 will work just fine)

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.


The curds need to be cooked to their final moisture then a cloth and draining pan are sanitized in hot water in preparation for the curd transfer and whey drainage.

The whey is then removed to the curd level and the curd is transferred to the draining pan.


Molding and pressing the cheese:

The curds are now transferred to a cloth lined mold.


I use a mold diameter of about 7.5 inches for this cheese. The cloth is folded over, the follower placed on top, and then 12 lbs of weight is applied.

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.


Aging:

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.



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In Peace,
Ricki, the cheese queen

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