CA­CIO­CAV­ALLO

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Farmhouse Kitchen -

This is my recipe for ca­cio­cav­allo us­ing a more man­age­able amount of milk. These are very spec­tac­u­lar-look­ing and tast­ing cheeses, and can be cold smoked to en­hance the flavour fur­ther. You will need to pre­pare ahead of time for some­where the cheeses can hang as part of the process of mak­ing this cheese (see Step 9) and then to age (see Step 15). You can use the same quan­tity of veg­e­tar­ian ren­net as calf ren­net but calf ren­net is tra­di­tional.

In­gre­di­ents

8 litres milk, raw or pas­teurised fresh milk, or a full fat ‘farm­house’ milk from the su­per­mar­ket. ¼ tsp mesophilic starter cul­ture OR 1 tbsp cul­tured but­ter­milk 2.5ml calf ren­net 1 tbsp cooled, boiled wa­ter 15-20 litres or so of boiled wa­ter, cooled and stored in a ster­ile con­tainer or con­tain­ers (for Steps 11 and 12) Plain salt

How to make

1 Heat the milk in a bain-marie to 33°C over 10 min­utes. 2 Sprin­kle in the starter cul­ture (I use Chris­tian Hansen’s R-704) and stir slowly and gen­tly for 30 sec­onds. Cover the pot with a ster­ilised lid and leave for 30 min­utes, main­tain­ing the tem­per­a­ture at 33°C. The eas­i­est way to do it is to re­move the pot from the el­e­ment and add a cup of hot wa­ter to the outer pot of the bain-marie as re­quired. 3 Di­lute the ren­net in a ta­ble­spoon of ster­ilised wa­ter, then add to the milk and stir gen­tly for 1 minute. Again, cover the pot with a ster­ilised lid and leave for 60 min­utes for the curds to set, main­tain­ing the tem­per­a­ture as in Step 2. 4 Test for a clean break by cut­ting across the pot of curds right to the bot­tom. If the cut edges are sharp then it is ready to cut. If you don’t see a sharp edge, check the tem­per­a­ture (it should be at 33°C), cor­rect if nec­es­sary, leave for an ex­tra 10 min­utes, then try again. 5 Once ready, cut into 1.5cm cubes and leave to stand for 5 min­utes so it has time to re­lease some whey. 6 Slowly warm the curds to 39°C. This is only a few de­grees and needs to take about 20 min­utes so have the heat on very low and keep check­ing it. Once the curds reaches 39°C, hold the tem­per­a­ture and slowly stir about ev­ery 5 min­utes for the next 30 min­utes. The curds will be frag­ile so treat them gen­tly – if the they be­gin to look like scram­bled eggs at any stage dur­ing this process, stop stir­ring un­til it firms up a bit. 7 Leave to set­tle for 5 min­utes. 8 Scoop the curds into a pre­pared 2-3kg mould. Press down gen­tly with your hands to matt the curds to­gether and re­lease more whey. 9 Place the mould on a rack and cover to pro­tect it from flies etc. How­ever, you also want to try and keep the curds warm so the best way is to sit the mould over a pot of warm wa­ter or whey. Leave for 5-6 hours to al­low the acid­ity to rise and flavour to de­velop. 10 The curds are ready to stretch when they reach ph 5.2. You don’t need a ph me­ter – take a very thin slice of curd (1cm) and dunk it in a cup of very hot wa­ter. If it im­me­di­ately starts to stretch into stringy pieces, it is ready. If it doesn’t, leave it a fur­ther 30 min­utes, then try the stretch test again. 11 Heat a large pot of ster­ilised wa­ter, and make up a sec­ond pot or bowl of brine, 4 litres of cooled, boiled wa­ter to 1kg plain salt. 12 Cut the mat­ted curds into two even pieces for large ca­cio­cav­allo or four even pieces for smaller ones. Take one of your pieces and cut it into match­box­sized slices in a large, ster­ilised bowl. Pour in enough hot wa­ter to just cover it. Use a wooden spoon or spat­ula to move the curds around a bit in the hot wa­ter – this helps with even heat­ing. 13 Empty out the hot wa­ter care­fully and cover the curds with a new lot of hot wa­ter. They should be very soft by now and ready to mould into shape. Wear ster­ilised gloves over your hands to pick up the squishy lump and mould it into an oval shape. There should be no cold spots. If you can feel pieces that are still lumpy (they will feel hard and pre­vent it from be­ing smooth and rounded) re­turn it to the hot wa­ter to soften again. It needs to be at about 58-60°C to get to the re­quired con­sis­tency. 14 Flat­ten the piece of softened cheese and bring the edges to­gether to make an oval shape. Hold the neck about 10cm from the top and the weight of the cheese will elon­gate the shape. Once you have the de­sired shape, care­fully place it into the cold brine. Keep smooth­ing the out­side of the cheese in the cold wa­ter and don’t let it slip to the bot­tom or that will change the shape. I cup the cheese in my hands un­til it is com­pletely cold, about 5 min­utes. Once shaped, leave the cheeses to float in the brine for 2-3 hours. Keep turn­ing them over. If nec­es­sary, place a plate on top so the cheeses are fully sub­merged. 15 I use a 5mm di­am­e­ter rope, cut to about 80cm long. Tie one end to one cheese around the neck and the other end to another cheese. Hang the two cheeses to­gether. Age for about 6 weeks in a cool place 10-13°C – I hang mine from the wire racks in my fridge. These cheeses will last for about 3 months, longer if smoked, but are best eaten at six weeks.

JEAN MANS­FIELD is an avid cook, cheese­maker and dairy farmer, who teaches en­thu­si­as­tic be­gin­ner cheese­mak­ers, and is the au­thor of How to Make Cheese. www.makecheese.co.nz

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