Getting my Asiago On!

I have made hard cheese before, Parmesan and my Ewe’s milk basket cheese ended up being a great hard cheese for grating, but I like Asiago and I thought I would try  the recipe in Mary Karlin’s book gives you two options for the cheese and produces two small wheels. One that would be aged for seven to eight months or the d’allevo type and another that could be aged to the Pressato stage for 4 weeks.  The ones that I made are not  true Asiago, not only because of the PDO status of the cheese, but also of the milk used and obviously the environmental conditions of my little slice of life here in Edmonton.

“Asiago is an Italian cow’s milk cheese that can assume different textures, according to its aging, from smooth for the fresh Asiago (Asiago Pressato) to a crumbly texture for the aged cheese (Asiago d’allevo) of which the flavor is reminiscent of Parmesan. The aged cheese is often grated in salads, soups, pastas, and sauces while the fresh Asiago is sliced to prepare Panini or sandwiches; it can also be melted on a variety of dishes and cantaloupe.

As Asiago has a protected designation of origin (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or DOP), the only “official” Asiago is produced in the alpine area of the town of Asiagoprovince of Vicenza, in the Veneto region. Asiago cheese is one of the most typical products of the Veneto region.” Wikepedia

Asiago is a thermophilic cheese, which means we heat the curd to a higher than 40C, which would kill off any mesophilic cultures.  For this make I used my trusty Roaster Vat and 12 Litres of Vital Greens Cream line whole milk, which is low heat pasteurised milk that is produced in Picture Butte Alberta. Thermo B culture, rennet and CaCl to help with the curd were all used to produce this great little cheese.  It was a relatively uneventful make, well having an eleven month old craw around your legs while making cheese was interesting, but everything else pretty much went to plan.  I find that picture are worth a 1000 words so here is the make with some commentary.

This is the usual set-up of the Roaster Vat, here I am heating the milk

This is the usual set-up of the Roaster Vat, here I am heating the milk

After ripening and renneting I had a great clean break and I was even on time for floc too

After ripening and renneting I had a great clean break and I was even on time for floc too

After cutting the curd it had to rest for a shot time

After cutting the curd it had to rest for a short time

I have been know to be a bit heavy-handed with stirring but I am happy with how this one started.

Then it was time to cook/stir the curd.

Then it was time to cook/stir the curd.

I love getting my hands into the curd.

The next part was quite busy and I was not able to get pictures of the draining or adding to the press.  But I do have one note for you, thermophilic cheeses often stick to cheesecloth while pressing and are a pain to get off.  Dip your cheese cloth in the warm whey and then put it into the mould and then load up your cheese.

I wanted to maintain the heat of the curds to help with rind knit.I put the press in a pot and put the lid on.

I wanted to maintain the heat of the curds to help with rind knit.
I put the press in a pot and put the lid on.

This is the little one, and the last time I used my DIY mould.

This is the little one, and the last time I used my DIY mould.

I have now purchased some real moulds and will start using them with my next make.

This is the little one out of the press and post brine.

This is the little one out of the press and post brine.

The larger of the two cheeses was kept in the press over night and then into the brine, but it needed a trim first.

Due to the type of press I have, I always get a love seat cheese

Due to the type of press I have, I always get a love seat cheese

I have a screw top press, it is effective, but you have to adjust all the time.

So a sharp knife and it gets a trim

So a sharp knife and it gets a trim

Here it is all trimed up and ready for brine bath

Here it is all trimmed up and ready for brine bath

This is the bottom, notice the pitting.  This is minor compared to others.

This is the bottom, notice the pitting. This is minor compared to others.

It was six am by this time and I had to get going to work, so into the brine bucket and into the  refrigerator for 12 hours.  I knew I would not get to flip it half way through the day, so I dry salted the top with a good hand full of salt.  How this will affect it, time will tell.

The two cheese during air drying next to the cave.

The two cheese during air drying next to the cave.

The little guy will be ready soon, the other will be great with next fall's pasta

The little guy will be ready soon, the other will be great with next fall’s pasta

The little guy waiting to be cut into

The little guy waiting to be cut into

I have often been told, and experienced that it is harder to age a smaller cheese than a large one.  Notice how the rind is about a 1/4 inch into the paste of the cheese.  That does not leave a lot of cheese to eat.

If you notice the rind development, it is starting to go into the paste of the cheese.

There is a real contrast in colour from the paste to the rind

I have rubbed the little guy with some olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.  I am not sure about it after doing it, the rind looks dirty.  The big boy is coming along nicely and has a solid rind. In reality only the little guy will get tasting notes as the big guy will probably be next year’s Christmas Gifts.  There are more pictures of this make over on Much To Do About Cheese on Facebook

Nice little wedge to sample for tasting notes

Nice little wedge to sample for tasting notes

Tasting Notes  – Pressato Version aka The little Guy:

  • Appearance: Nice with a slight sheen from the Olive Oil
  • Nose (aroma): Smells of Olive Oil and pepper
  • Overall Taste:  Mild but a bit of pepperiness when you eat the rind
  • Sweet to Salty: Not really sweet, not salty, but with a slight nuttiness.
  • Mild (mellow) to Robust to Pungent (stinky): Mellow not overpowering at all
  • Mouth Feel: (gritty, sandy, chewy, greasy, gummy, etc.): smooth but with some firmness

Go and make cheese!

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11 comments

  1. Great read, Ian. Here is a question for you. I was making mine after my flu – and while you were at work, on the Monday – so didn’t call you… but I did look up recipes and all corrections on Mary’s recipes. Her recipe says to heat the curd after resting them (after cutting them) and does not say to stir the curd. It does say to stir the curd after heating them. So, that is what I did. I see you stirred while it heated. I gently moved the curd away from the edge of the vat during the 40 minute heating to evenly distribute the heat, but did not stir. The curd did look great and is aging well. I am thinking of vacuum packing the little one to avoid the thick rind as I see it starting. I added a special pepper to my larger one. Funny how I did what you did that way, without discussing it with you. I used 16 litres of fresh milk, but do see everywhere that the protected version is actually made with pasteurized milk. That was interesting. The tasting will be fun. I guess mine will be ready for New Years.
    🙂
    But, I know I will be cracking that little one open for Christmas.
    Valerie

    1. Hi, Looking back my notes I did do the heating to 104F but I just did one stir to move everything around. Then I stirred and heated to 118F. The curd did turn out nicely, but I will be interested to see how well mine ages. I would vacuum or wax the little one definitely. I want to have a natural rind and keep it out of the vacuum bag as long as I can.

      I am glad the yours turned out well, from personal experience the curd was always great using Fresh Milk. Now that I have my two new moulds I plan on doubling up on some of my next makes.

    1. Believe it or not it is harder to age smaller cheeses. You could vacuum seal the smaller ones so that the rind does not get to thick. I would try to age for the same time as a larger one at first.

        1. Dont worry it won’t be as complicated as you think it is. You will have rind maintenance to do on some cheese others not so much. Humidity is key use some ripening boxes.

    1. You will still get some sticking, but not as bad as if you don’t do it, if you use the plastic cheesecloth (plyban it is not really an issue). Thanks it turned out nice, the big one is looking great in the “cave”

    1. Thanks Nic, I did not pay attention to the fat content of the milk so I ended up using 14L of full fat cream line milk so it is not truly an Asiago but it has nice colour.

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