For this cheese I will use the freshest milk available. My source is fresh raw milk collected after the evening milking and then again the following morning. I leave 3 gallons of evening milk to set at room temperature of about 55-60F and then skim the cream from this the following morning. The low fat milk is then mixed with the 3 gallons of full fat milk collected in the morning.
The final amount of milk to the milk pot is about 5.5 gallons. The cream can be used for butter or simply added back to the whey for a richer ricotta.
Acidifying and heating the milk:
Begin by heating the milk slowly to 91-93F. Using a milk pot in a water bath is the best way to do this but, if careful in heating, it can be done directly on the stove top. I use 2 thermometers to monitor bath and milk temps and keep a 10-20F differential between the two until I approach the target temp for the milk. The thermometers on Ricki's site do a great job.
When the milk is at temperature add the culture. I am using .5% of the Y1 yogurt that has been made up before hand . That is 1/2% percent of the milk volume as prepared yogurt or 3.5 oz. and this should be quite fresh and clean.
Normal store bought yogurts are not the same here in the US. Our Y1 yogurt is a 50:50 blend of thermophilus and bulgaricus cultures (both high temperature active) and while not the same as the more complex cultures that yesterdays whey provides in Italy, it will provide a great alternative, especially with the raw milk ripened overnight.
This should be stirred well with a spoon to break up the clumps, mixed into the milk thoroughly and then held at 93F for about 30 minutes.
Coagulation with rennet:
After the 30 minute ripening, give the milk its final stir before adding rennet. Allow it to go quiet and add the rennet, stirring in an up and down motion for 30 seconds.
At about 8-10 minutes you will notice the milk beginning to thicken but for this milk it needs to sit quiet for another 5-7 minutes until the curd becomes much firmer. This is a total coagulation time of 15 minutes from rennet addition to a final curd ready for cutting.
Cutting curds and releasing the whey by heating:
Cut the curds to about 3/8 to 1/4 inch. I find that a coarse 1" cross cut with a knife breaks up the curd mass nicely and then using a long handled whisk with fine wires produces good results in reducing the curds to size nicely. Begin slowly with the whisk in a top to bottom manner and then speed up as the curd becomes smaller. Take about 10 minutes for this. Finding a long handled whisk with thin wires will make the small curd cutting go much easier.
The curds should be cut and stirred for another 10 minutes. Then the water bath should be heated, as shown in the chart below, to achieve the final curd temp of 132-133F by adding enough of the boiling water to the sink or outer hot water pot.
I have included this chart for guidance in the rapid curd heating for this cheese :
Hot Water Bath Temp:
||Add cold water to 135F|
A total of 20 minutes from 93F to 132F
This heating does go against the basics of cheese making that most of us have been taught (raise temp only a couple of degrees per minute over a long time to keep from surface hardening) but the rules ARE to be broken. The obvious 'science' here is that the small curd size, rapid speed of stirring in the vat and high heat do a great job at drying the curds out evenly.
The curds will quickly cook down to a smaller rice or barley grain size. They will also easily consolidate into a nice curd mass. Once the vat reaches the final temperature, the water jacket needs to be cooled to 135F and stirring should continue. Depending on the milk used, the curd should be ready to consolidate in 5-10 minutes. This is where the cheese maker begins looking at the state of the formed curds. The final curd needs to be dry, but not so dry that they do not hold together when pressed. As I mentioned previously, this is quite subjective and may take a few tries to get it right. This really is where the hands on workshops really help the newer cheese makers.
Below are several photos showing this final curd condition:
Curd Consolidation in the Warm Whey
This next step is in lieu of the Italian cheese makers allowing the huge curd mass to settle into the narrow bottom of the vats. We are missing the weight of that large curd mass, so will not quite accomplish the tight consolidation of the larger cheese-but this will work just fine. We will simply need to add a bit more weight in the final molding step.
IMMEDIATLY after achieving the proper curd, it is time to transfer the curds to a cloth lined colander. Collect the whey to pour back into the pot and reheat to 135F.
Form the cloth and curds into a ball and submerge the cloth with curds in warm whey @135F for 60 minutes. It is best to allow this cloth of curds to "free-hang" by tying the cloth around a bar or long spoon across the vat. Make sure the entire curd mass remains submersed in the whey.
This will help in forming a natural round curd mass.
At 10-15 minute intervals, untie and roll the curd mass back and forth in the cloth to consolidate it into a smooth surfaced mass.
At this point the culture will not be active due to the high temp, but this step is needed for the "Grana" structure of the cheese. It is this "soft" consolidation of the small curds that gives the cheese its characteristic grain or 'Grana' structure.
Finally, retrieve the consolidated curd from the warm whey and transfer the consolidated curd mass in the cloth to the prepared mold.
At this point the curd should have formed a nice smooth surfaced mass. Press firmly with hand pressure into the mold, but do not break the curd mass.
Draining and Pressing The Cheese:
The mold should already be sanitized and placed into its draining area. Now transfer the consolidated curd mass in the cloth to the prepared mold.
At this point the curd should have formed a nice smooth surfaced mass. Press firmly with hand pressure into the mold but do not break the curd mass.
Begin pressing with the follower in place.
Initial pressure will be just enough to keep a thin trickle of whey running from the curd mass (10-15 lbs) for 15-30 minutes. The curd should be removed from the press, turned, and re-dressed (smooth out wrinkles) in the cloth at 10-15 minute intervals for the first hour.
As whey runoff slows, increase weight to 25 lbs for another 30-60 minutes and then to 50 lbs for another 8-12 hours.
My calculations show that the larger cheese and weight is about 6 times greater per sq. inch than smaller cheese.
We need 6 times the weight per square inch or 25 pounds of weight on the smaller cheese.
I mentioned the lack of consolidation due to the smaller curd mass in the vat so I simply doubled the 25 lbs to 50 pounds and this seems to work just fine and gives me a nice consolidated cheese with a smooth rind for aging.
Anyhow, its a bit of science/math and a bit of "driving blind" calculation that seems to work for me here. So, if my mathematical wanderings leave you totally confused, just go by my numbers above and you should be fine. I just thought I would throw in some "speed bumps" for this cheese making adventure
At this point the culture will not be active due to the high temp, so keep the cheese warm (80-85F) since the culture is still working and acid is being produced.
As the curd mass cools from 112 to 80F, it is at this cooling temperature that the culture bacteria will produce the final acid development.
Press for 8-12 hours then no weight and hold in the mold with no cloth (temp should be held at 65-75F).
The cheese can be removed from the mold the following morning, but keep it from drying out. I find a small plastic box with cover works well for this. The cheese will now be held for 2 days as the culture finishes working before the final salting in brine.
Final yield is about 5 lbs from the 5.5 gallons of milk. The lower yield is due to the high scald temperatures and degree of cooking which results in less moisture. This is also why the cheese is capable of longer aging and more flavor.
Salting is done in a saturated brine for about 6.5 hours per pound since this cheese is quite dense at this point and the salt will take longer to penetrate.
It will take about 2.25 lbs of salt to saturate 1 gallon of boiled water. When cooled to 50F (recommended brining temperature) there should be salt undissolved in the bottom of the container, assuring that the liquid is saturated.
The cheese is placed in a non-reactive pan or basin with enough brine to float the cheese. Since the top will be above the brine and not receive any salt, sprinkle a good teaspoon of salt over the surface of the cheese at the beginning of the brining and again at the midway point in brining.
Here is a link to more info and details on brining .
Ricotta from the whey
Do not forget the ricotta since this is a fabulous cheese for yielding great tasting "recooked" cheese. It works especially well if you add the skimmed butterfat back to the whey before heating. This batch yielded over 2.5 lbs of great ricotta in addition to the 5 pounds of Parma.
The cheese is now ready to dry off for a day or two and then can be aged at 80-85% moisture and 52-58F.
Mold should be brushed or rubbed down with a medium stiff brush or coarse cloth as it develops.
After about 1-2 weeks the rind should harden somewhat and the mold will not grow as readily. A light coat of oil will also discourage mold growth and make the mold easier to remove.
This cheese will be somewhat earlier in ripening and should show good character at about 12-14 months.