Sunday, August 31, 2008

Making Provolone... Ending Up With Feta?

For my first attempt at "real" cheesemaking I tried the provolone recipe out of Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making. She is to home cheesemaking what Charlie Papazian is to homebrewing. I say that not only as a great compliment but also to suggest that both write books more for the casual reader than someone interested in perfecting the craft. Home Cheese Making makes cheese making sound very easy and fun, much like The Complete Joy of Homebrewing does for brewing, but it also tends to be less detailed/technical/precise.

The recipe was relatively simple, acidify the milk with a bacterial culture, add lipase enzyme for a sharper flavor, curdle with rennet (an enzyme derived for a young cow's stomach), slice the curd, cook the curd, separate the curd from the whey, stretch the curd, form the cheese, brine the cheese, age the cheese. Sadly, my results weren't up to snuff, so no point in going into too much detail on the fine details of each step.


While making the two page recipe I counted at least four errors/omissions. First it calls to dilute 1/4 tsp of rennet in 1/4 tsp of water (while every other recipe in the book calls for diluting the rennet in 1/4 cup of water). Second, in the 7th step it says "you are ready to slice your curd into _ inch slices". Third, step 9 ends with putting the cheese into ice water, while step 10 starts with removing it from a brine (how long the cheese should be in the brine isn't mentioned). There are also just places where the math doesn't make sense, for example they suggest going from 97 to 144 in 45 minutes, at about 2-3 degrees every 5 minutes... not much chance of getting a 47 degree increase in 45 minutes when increasing the temp by less than 1 degree per minute.


In the end my provolone came out more like feta (crumbly and rather salty). I'm not sure if the issue was not diluting the rennet enough (the curd never got as firm as I have seen it in videos), or some other process mistake I made along the way, but the cheese never stretched like it was supposed to. The flavor is fine, but nowhere near what I was aiming for. I understand brewing well enough that I can use a good book with poor editing (like Radical Brewing) and still make great beer because I know the basic process pretty well. I just barely grasp the basics of cheesemaking so I am following the recipe exactly as it is written, any editing mistakes included.

I have the ingredients and tools to make a batch of Camembert, so I'll give the book a second chance just in case this recipe (or something I did) was an aberration.

9 comments:

Heather said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
brushfiremedia said...

I have to agree with your assessment. I would love to find a better cheesemaking book. I haven't had great success working out of the Carroll book at all, except for soft cheeses...

Anonymous said...

I just tried this recipe last week and also had the same issues. Well actually, I got to the step where the curds had to sit (still warm, in the colander over the hot whey) and do the stretching tests? the curds didn't stretch after 90 minutes.. more like smear. It wasn't pretty. I even did some research online before I started and found a different cheesemaking book that explained some of what was missing in ricki carroll's recipe (for example, the cheese is soaked in the brine for 2 hrs at room temp) but it was STILL a disaster. I've had success with other cheeses so this was my first big dissapointment. Have you figured out what went wrong? I would love to learn from you! Thanks, Sarah (Columbus, OH)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sad to hear that the recipe didn't work for you either. I never figured out what went wrong on this batch. I've mainly just been playing with soft cheeses as I've had much better luck with them.

MattMac said...

Seems to be a common thread with this book. I tried the cheddar recipe and it came out like Caerphilly - very dry, crumbly and tangy. It was very nice, just wasn't cheddar! I blogged a review of the book here: http://blog.mattmacleod.co.uk/2009/06/home-cheese-making-by-ricki-carroll/

Bronwyn said...

I had the same problem with this provolone recipe. You have to make up your mind whether she really means 144˚F or whether she really means 2-3˚F every 5 minutes. I plumped for 144˚F, and it didn't work. Further research on the internet showed that actually it should be 118˚F, so the 2-3˚ per 5 minutes is about right. I've just done it like that and hey presto, it works. Should have known really - pasteurisation happens at 162˚F for 3 minutes, and that kills most things. 144˚F for any reasonable amount of time just kills the starter and it's never going to get down to the proper pH.

I can't get over how bad the editing is in these books - I also have Tim Smith's Making Artisan Cheese; it is even worse. Two of the recipes are even missing titles.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks for the tips, now that the weather has cooled down I'm going to be getting back into the cheese making. It is a shame the editing is so poor, hopefully someone comes out with a great cheese making book some day.

Lucie in Sydney Australia said...

YES! me too, twice! I am in Australia, and this book is the suggested starting point in this country too. Everything seemed to go well untill the 144'f point, where the curd seemed to stick to itself and form a big rubbery mass, like supermarket prepacked boconccini. It also seemed to loose quite alot of butterfat at this point. I kept the rubbery mass and used it in chunks on salad. It was ok that way. THANK YOU TO BRONWYN with a sucessful attempt at 118'f. I now have faith to give it another go-3rd attempt.
On the positive side I have done many soft cheeses and some mould ripened cheeses, together with 30 minute mozzarella (in hot water) which took about 2 hrs. I have also noticed alot of info missing, requiring further research.. I do not say that Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll is a book for beginners as it purports to be. I have found a citric acid plus thermophillic starter Provolone recipe for goats milk which I will also give a go, but I will use cows milk. I found the recipe at http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Recipes/Make-Mozzarella-and-String-Cheese-954/Citric-Acid-Provolone-and-Mozzarella-using-Goats-Milk-934.aspx

Anonymous said...

144 degrees is way too hot! It is what is causing the cheese to crumble. Most recipes call for heating slowly to 112-118 degrees, no hotter.Look online for better recipes, the one you are using sounds like it has lots of typos and missing details. Try making Mozzarella cheese first to get the process down. Mozzarella is similar in process, but doesn't require aging. If at first you don't succeed..........

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