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This is an Italian stretched-curd (pasta filata) cheese, first made in southern Italy but now also made in other parts of Italy and in the United States, principally in Wisconsin and Michigan. It is light in color, mellow, smooth, cuts without crumbling, and has an agreeable flavor.

This cheese is made in various shapes and sizes, each of which is identified by a more or less distinguishing name. Typically, the style called Provolone is pear-shaped and in the United States weighs about 14 pounds; in Italy, it weighs between 6 and 9 pounds.

The cheese can range from mild and sweet to sharp and pungent depending upon the final moisture and amount of aging time.

Provolone is the older brother of the Mozzarella family. It is the moisture levels that differentiate the two cheeses. Provolone’s 45 percent moisture content is lower than Mozzarella’s standard range of 52 to 60 percent moisture. This lower moisture content gives Provolone a longer shelf-life than Mozzarella and the Provolone holds up better as a slicing and shredding cheese.
This low moisture and longer aging results in fuller flavors than Mozzarella.

The stretching of the curd during production results is a malleable cheese but close textured cheese that can be sculpted into a variety of shapes, depending on desired function or the whim of the cheese maker.
They sometimes even form it in the shape of animals.

Provolone’s original shape was round, but with the invention of molds in the early 1900s, the salami shape became most popular because of its practicality for hanging and slicing. Many companies continue to hang and age their Provolone using ropes, a throwback to traditional practices.  (It was always hung with ropes because it is too soft to sit on a shelf.)

Provolone today is made in larger sizes and it still involves a lot of hand work, as evidenced in these photos.

The cheese I have made to demonstrate the Provolone process here is one for a longer aging to develop a higher flavor over time.
Although I have used 6 gallons of milk here I have scaled the recipe below for a 3 gallon batch size to make it a little more manageable in the home kitchen. To increase the batch size, simply increase all ingredients proportionately.

I have not used any Lipase in this recipe because it seems to produce a flavor I do not like in aged cheese, as it breaks down the fat in a full fat milk to a rancid flavor. The Lipase is of course an option and can be added for those who like it.

A Recipe for Making Provolone

Before you Begin:

You will need:
3 gallons of whole milk (Not UltraPasturized)
1 packet of our C101 mesophilic culture. This will only produce initial acid until the temperature is raised above 102F, it will then die off and the enzymes will help in aging.
Y1 Bulgarian Yogurt made up a day before you make this cheese OR you may simply use 1 packet of the C201 thermophilic culture. (The Y1 is more complex and will produce acid quicker.)
Liquid Rennet (2 ml or .4 tsp) single strength
Lipase is optional (start with 1/8 tsp and increase if you like the flavor)
A good thermometer
A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds.
A colander and butter muslin to drain the curds.
Note:  Everything needs to be cleaned and sanitized.

Acidifying and heating the milk:

Begin by heating the milk to 90F (32C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.

Culture to add for this cheese:
1/2 packet of our C101 (or 1/4tsp MA011)
1.5% of the Y1 Bulgarian Yogurt that you have made up. For 3 gallons this will be 5.75 ounces of the yogurt. OR 1 packet of the C201 (or 1/2 tsp TA061) culture but this may take longer to reach its final acid.

Once the milk is at 90F the culture can be added. To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps, sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.

Allow the milk to ripen for 30 minutes once the cultures have been added and stirred in and sits quietly at the target temperature of 90F.

Coagulation with rennet:

Then add about 2 ml (.4 tsp) of single strength liquid rennet.

The milk now needs to sit quietly for 30-45 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.

The milk should begin to show signs of initial coagulation at 12-15 minutes and the final firmness for cutting will be at 30-45 minutes.

Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

When the curd is ready you will notice that a firm gel has formed. The simple test is to insert a clean finger into the curd at a 45 degree angle and then slowly lift the coagulated curd. A clean split and whey filling in the split will indicate a proper set.
Now it is time to cut the curds.
Begin by making parallel cuts about 1/2 -3/4 inches apart. Then turn the pot 90degrees and repeat ending with a checkerboard of cuts on the surface. Then with your spoon or ladle cut these crosswise until you have a pot full of curd cubes. Be gentle at this point because the curd will be very soft.
Final curd cut should be to peanut-corn kernel size ~3/8"

Once the curds are cut, stir them gently for 10 minutes. You should note more whey being released.

Cooking the curds:

Now it is time to begin drying out the curds. This will be done by increasing the heat slowly to 112-118F (44-48C). The heat needs to be increased slowly at about 3-5F (1.5-3C) every 5 minutes at the beginning. The total cooking time will be 45 minutes and may be extended to 1 hr. if the curds are still soft.

The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.

When this point is reached the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey.
If you can measure pH or Titratable Acid% you will find that at this point the acid has developed to a pH of ~ 6.0-6.1 or TA% of .16-.18 . This should be at about 2-3 hrs after adding the culture.

Removing the whey:

At this point the whey can be removed to the curd level and curds can be transferred into a colander for draining.

Allow the curds to drain well in the colander and consolidate 1 hour while keeping draining curds suspended in a pot with warm whey or water at 100-105F (photo to the left). This will encourage the culture to continue acidifying the cheese.

After 1 hour cut into 1" slabs similar to cheddar and stack back in the colander, still keeping at 100F+. These curds will consolidate again. This will allow any residual whey to drain to a dry curd during the final acid development.

The final acid should develop in another 2-3 hours when the curd will have developed a final acid pH of 5.2-5.3.

While waiting for the acid to develop, begin heating hot water OR if you have made ricotta from your fresh whey previously drained use the remaining hot whey. It should be heated to 175-180F for the stretching phase.

If you are working without a pH meter, a simple test will be to cut a small strip from the consolidated curd mass. Immerse this in hot water or whey (185F). If the curd stretches into a long strand then the pH is correct. If not, allow the curd mass to continue developing acid for another 15-30 minutes before trying again.

Final Curd Heating and Stretching:

Once the curd mass has developed its final acid it should have formed a nice consolidated mass and is ready for the final heating and stretching.

Slice into 1/4-1/2 inch strips

Add water at 175-180F and allow it to absorb heat

Until the curd stretches easily

Stretch the curd in the tub by kneading and stretching to develop the elastic curd typical of the Pasta Filata style. The final form can be made stretching the curd in the tub by pulling up sides like a jug and forcing curd from the top down inside the opening formed at the top. Finally, close off the top and seal the opening in very hot water- then pinch and twist this off.

The final form is done here by shaping the form into a cylinder and then rolling back and forth on the draining table until a good smooth cylinder is formed. I then place this into a tall cylindrical container and place it back into the hot whey to get the final form.

Salting and Aging:

The cheese is now finished off by soaking in a saturated brine for 12 hours, drying for a day or two and then moving it to the cave where it will be hung for aging. Caution should be taken to keep the surface from drying out and cracking.

If mold appears, it should be removed with a brine soaked cloth. At 1-2 weeks it can be rubbed with oil to reduce mold growth.

The aging room temperature should be 52-58F and 80-85% humidity.

This cheese will be ripe in 4-9 months but can be aged longer for a stronger flavor.

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