on the cutting board, with salt-and-pepper cookies
Remember the photo I published recently for Black and White Wednesday where I held in my hand a nice piece of fresh cheese? I wrote then that I would talk a bit more about the cheese portrayed and that is what I will do in this post. I will actually talk very little, since everything you need to know about making the cheese is on the robiola recipe page of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company website.
The page is authored by Jim Wallace. Having attended a workshop led by him earlier this year means that now, when I read the articles he writes, I can hear his voice providing instructions and guidance. As Jim explains in the introductory notes, there are various types of robiola. If you do a google image search after specifying robiola in the search field, you can get some idea of what those cheeses look like.
Since everything you need to know to make the cheese is on the relevant page, here I am sharing a few photos from my experience making it. I made it three times. The first time, I misjudged my mold needs, so I ended up with good-tasting cheese of weird shapes. I then got a ricotta basket and used that and the one I already had to mold the curds. Basically, I followed Jim's instructions (which, of course, I should have done to begin with).
The photo above shows one of the baskets with the curds, resting on a grate that rests on a raised metal support, all placed inside a plastic container: this is so that the whey (siero di latte) can drain freely. I set aside the first two cups or so of whey and use it to make bread. I used the rest to water one of my rhododendrons. As mentioned previously, I have recently started to use cheese netting instead of cloth. There are some drawbacks, but the advantage is easy cleaning and handling.
The time from addition of rennet (caglio) to cutting the curd (cagliata) was 5.5 hours (this was based on observation of the curd and will probably vary when I make the cheese again). The amount of calcium chloride I used is 1/8 teaspoon.
The top photo shows what was left of one robiola after I cut some for dinner with my friend Christine of Christine Cooks and her husband and packed some for them to bring home. We enjoyed the lovely, fresh-tasting cheese, which I served with slices of pears.
A variation on the theme of formaggio con le pere (cheese with pears) is shown above, where the fruit is an Asian pear. There is a bit more to this, so I will leave you kind of hanging until I have time to reveal more.
The robiola we have eaten so far has been aged for a short period of time, in the order of 4-7 days. However, the very last small wheel has just spent two weeks in the fridge, due to our travels. Though slowly, due to the low temperature, the cheese has matured further and we are enjoying it on bread or pears.
I recommend this recipe to both the beginner and the experienced cheese-maker: it is pretty straightforward, the result can be tasted within a few days of making it, and the resulting cheese is very nice.
Exciting update (October 31, 2011): my report on making robiola at home is featured in today's post on the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company blog. Thanks!
Another exciting update (November 4, 2011): I submitted the post to Homegrown.org as participant to their Homegrown Fair and it was chosen as winner of week 1 of the event. Thanks!
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the formaggio fatto in casa: robiola audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]