For this months recipe we will explore a simple cheese:
Robiola from Northern Italy.
This may be the perfect cheese for the home or farmstead cheese maker. It is a cheese produced in the Langhe Hills just south of Torino, Italy. Yes, this is the same region that produces the amazing$ Barolo wines and the wonderful$ tartufa (truffles) around Alba.
A Very Ancient Cheese
"Robiola Piemonte" is the generic name for this group of fresh white cheese derived from cow goat or ewes milk or any mixture of the three (due-latte tre-latte). They also can be found as pasteurized or from raw milk.
Do not confuse this cheese with the term "Robiola Lombardia" which is a term used for a group of different Taleggio style cheeses (another recipe to be coming in the next few months).
Robiola derives from the Latin “rubere” and refers to the reddish color that the crust develops particularly after a prolonged period of maturation). The texture is denser and less "frothy" than the traditional lactic goat cheese.
These are small (4-5.5" in diameter and 1-1.5" in height). Each cheese weighs between 8.5-14 oz. and can be found as fresh or slightly matured cheese.
The fresh cheese:
Is ripened from four to ten days and a rind may be present in the form of a light natural bloom of mold or may be absent. The body may be milky white to straw-yellow depending on the season with a soft and creamy paste. The flavor/aroma may vary from a delicate tangy to slightly sour.
The mature cheese:
Is ripened for 11 days or more forming a rind with a natural bloom of mold and may become slightly reddish in color. The body becomes slightly more compact as maturing progresses. It may also become creamier as it ages, due to the protein changes within.
What I find so user friendly with this cheese is that it can be:
- Made with cow, goat, ewe or any combo of these milks.
- It can be eaten fresh at 2-3 days old or allowed to develop a slight mold coat and aged for several weeks.
- It can be (and is) made from any culture, ranging from natural milk cultures, Mesophilic or even Thermophilic cultures.
- It is such an easy cheese to make, relying on mostly acid development and just a tiny bit of rennet for coagulation and little to no time in stirring and cooking.
Because of the above it gets my vote for the next cheese to try after Ricki's easy Mozzarella.
Variations in Style
Within the Langhe Hills, there are 2 Robiolas of note. Both are “DOP” (controlled denomination origin):
- Robiola di Roccaverano
from "del Bek" which is Piedmont dialect for goat. This is a special breed and the only Italian historical goat milk cheese still in production, according to the procedures established some 200 years ago. This is made from the goat of Roccaverano. The production technique varies little from cheese maker to cheese maker, but the differences between their “robiole” can be significant because notes of flowers, herbs and the flora of the pastures are transferred to the cheese in such a way that it is possible to establish a map of “cru” territories as is done for the wines.
- Robiola Murazzano
This is one of the oldest cheeses of the Robiola dating back to the time of the Celts in Italy. The milk is only produced on the high pastures from May to November. It was originally made of 100% ewes milk but can now contain up to 40% cows milk.
- In addition to these, you may find a mix of other cheeses such as the Due Latte and Tre Latte (2 and 3 types of milk) mixed milk cheeses ranging from commercial production to small scale farm cheeses.
Making the Cheese
As I have mentioned earlier, you can make this cheese with any milk; raw, pasteurized, milk from cow, goat or ewe. But please, please, please, no low or no fat milk! This cheese depends on the natural flavor of the milk, and the butterfat is a big part of that.
This cheese will be a combination of a lactic style with just a teeny bit of rennet. This means that we will rely primarily on the conversion of lactose to lactic acid by bacteria to develop enough acidity to cause the milk to coagulate. This will give us a light and more open texture in the final cheese-very different from the traditional rennet coagulated cheese.
For this cheese, I will work with a good quality whole cows milk from the store since this is what most folks can easily find. If you can find a source for raw cow, goat or ewes milk this will develop even more complex flavors but the pasteurized milk will make a wonderful cheese as well.
As always, fresh is best.
This process will involve:
- Heating the milk and adding the culture.
- Allowing this to sit for several hours to develop acid.
- Adding a few drops of rennet and allowing a firm curd to form with good acid development.
- Cutting the curd briefly.
- Ladling to draining cloth and forms for 12-36 hours.
- Allowing the cheese to dry and age for 4-40 days.
Ricki is always asking me to consider recipes especially for the home cheese maker-
simple and easy and yet beautiful and tasty. Well this one is hitting on all four cylinders.
I am sure she will love this one as I am sure you will too!
I doubt you will find this recipe anywhere else on the World Wide Web.
A Recipe for Making Robiola
Before you begin:
You will need:
1 gallon of milk (not UltraPasturized)
1 packet of our Buttermilk culture
Liquid Rennet (either animal or vegetable)
A good thermometer
A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds with.
2-3 of our BasketMold (M332) to drain the curds
Butter Muslin for lining the molds and draining
Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.
Calcium Chloride can be added for pasteurized cold stored milk and will help to form a firmer curd using about 1/8-1/4 tsp per gallon of milk.
Acidifying and heating the milk:
Begin by heating the milk to 72F*** (21C). 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
Once the milk is at 72F 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.
The milk now needs to sit covered and quiet for about 4 hours while the initial acid develops BEFORE adding the rennet. This longer ripening time will cause the rennet to work on the milk much quicker due to the higher acid.
***If you do use raw milk and especially goat, ewe, or a combo, the initial temperatures may need to be higher. The Murazzano ewes milk is heated as high as 98F (37C) but this is mostly because of the higher fat and difficulty in draining without a lot of stirring and heating post cut.
Coagulation with rennet:
Once the milk has developed acid you will add about 4 drops of single strength liquid rennet and stir for 1 minute.
The milk now needs to sit quietly for another 25-40 minutes while the culture continues its work and the rennet coagulates the curd. The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm enough during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.
You will then find that the milk has thickened and may hold a good cut as shown at left but do not worry if it still seems very soft . Do not cut the curd yet. What you now want to see is whey rising from the curds, as shown on right. First, small drops, then little pools and even to a thin layer of whey over the curd. This may take another 8-24 hours depending on milk and room conditions. You can experiment on this timing to change your final curd texture and acid to make the cheese that you like the best.
When you see this whey rising, you can be sure that the curd has developed enough acid to be briefly cut and ladled to the forms.
Cutting curds and releasing the whey:
The curd is now ready to cut and release the first of the whey. Begin with making a larger 1.5" vertical cross cut with the knife, as in the photo below. Let this rest for 3-5 minutes to release some whey and become slightly firmer. The next cut will be done using the spoon or ladle and cross cutting to break the curds into bean sized pieces or a bit larger. Remember- the larger the cut the moister the final cheese.
Once the final cut is made, the curds can be stirred about 5-10 minutes to allow the curd pieces to firm up. Next you will let the curds settle while you prepare the sanitized molds and draining cloth.
You should now use a ladle or spoon to remove the whey down to the level of the curds.
Molding and draining the whey
The moist curds can now be transferred to a form lined with butter muslin. The molds should be set on a rack or platform above a basin, tray or sink to catch the whey as it drains. This whey will be too acid to use for ricotta but can be used for baking or cooking. Taste it at this point and you will note the acid.
The transfer should be done with a ladle without holes so that the curds are transferred with enough whey to float in the molds. This will allow a more compact cheese with fewer mechanical holes. It is fine to heap the curds over the tops of the mold because they will soon settle.
Once all of the curds have been transferred to the molds, neatly fold the cloth over the tops and turn the cheese in the form to encourage a nice even surface. You may even stack the molds for a little weight here, but this is optional.
In about 5-10 minutes the cheese will begin to form its nice compact surface.
Turn the cheese in the basket and unfold the cloth.
The cheese is now firm enough to handle carefully.
Lift the cheese from the cloth, turn onto the cloth in the basket and re-wrap. Allow this to drain for another 45-60 minutes.
The cheese will be well firmed at the end of this draining period. The cloth can be removed and the cheese placed directly in the forms. These forms have a nice pattern and will imprint the cheese during the final draining.
This final draining will take about 12-18 hours. At the end of this, the cheese should be floated in a saturated brine for about 60 minutes. If the draining is too short then excess moisture will cause problems and if too long the acid of the cheese will be too high. This will be one of your controls to make the cheese you like best.
Drying and ripening
When the cheeses are removed from the brine they should be dried off in a cool room for about 4-6 hours. They can then go to the aging space at about 80-85% humidity and 52-58F for at least 4 days. They should be turned daily and wiped with a light brine if mold appears. At the end of this period they will be ready for the table as a very fresh cheese.
If you continue to wipe with brine every 2-5 days (as needed) to keep the mold growth down, the cheese may ripen for up to 30-40 days. It will change considerably in texture and flavor as the proteins continue to break down.
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Ricki, the cheese queen