Cabra al Vino Recipe
- 3 Gallons of Goat's Milk (not Ultra-Pasteurized)
- 1/8 tsp MA4002 Culture - Can substitute for 1/2 Packet C21 Buttermilk Culture plus 1/2 Packet C201 Thermophilic Culture
- 1/8 tsp Single Strength Liquid Rennet
- Cheese Salt
- Salt Brine
- Calcium Chloride (for pasteurized milk)
- Good Thermometer
- Knife to Cut Curds
- Spoon or ladle to Stir Curds
- 2 Basket Cheese Molds
- Butter Muslin
- Cheese Press or 5 lb & 15 lb Weights
- Draining Mat
- Cabra al Vino Info
- Q & A
Acidify & Heat Milk
Begin by heating three gallons of a fresh goat's milk to 95°F (35°C). 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 95°F, 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 needs to be maintained at 95°F for about 1 hour while the bacteria begin to work.
Note: If using pasteurized milk, the culture amount should be doubled.
Coagulate with Rennet
Once the milk has been ripened, add 1/8 tsp (~.6ml) of single strength liquid rennet. Stir in an even up and down motion for 1 minute.
Now the milk needs to sit still for 90 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temperature drops a few degrees during this time. You will notice the milk beginning to thicken in about 40-45 minutes, but let the milk set for a full 80-90 minutes for a firm curd.
Note: This is a low amount of rennet because the long coagulation time will allow the acid to work longer before the curd cutting and there is a very short cut/stir/cook time. This will allow for a moister curd and a proper level of acid as the curd is placed into the molds.
Cut & Cook Curds
Cut the curd vertically in both directions, at about 3/4-1/2 inch. Then let it rest 5 minutes.
The second cut will be horizontal with a spoon or flat ladle, and cut slowly to a pea to barley grain size, taking about 10 minutes.
Allow the curd to settle and then remove 30% of the whey.
Then add back water @110F slowly to heat curds to 97°F over 10 minutes.
Stir for 30-40 minutes to achieve a moderately firm curd.
The final curds should be cooked well-through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.
When this point is reached, the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey.
The photos above show the progression of curd firmness as they are gently stirred during the 30-40 minutes. It is very subtle, but the curds develop a more defined shape and firmness and they shrink in size.
Molding & Pressing
Two basket molds with cloths should have been sanitized earlier and can now be arranged on a draining surface but with no cloth at this point (the open basket design allows plenty of drainage).
Remove the whey down to just above the curd surface and then begin transferring the curds to the molds. Use moderate hand pressure for a firm pack into the molds.
Stack the 2 molds for a moderate amount of weight. I use a Stainless Follower Plate or the round disc from her Polypropylene Follower Set to separate the cheeses but any flat disc sized for the mold top will work.
Continue this for 30 minutes with no cloth and weight by simply reversing and re-stacking the molds after 15 minutes.
Molding & Pressing (cont.)
At 30 minutes, turn the cheese in the molds but with cloth.
Then, stack 2 high and weight at 5-7 lbs for 30 minutes. Turn in the molds and re-wrap in cloth using the same weight and time as above.
Keep warm at 75-80°F. I surround the press with a couple of pots or milk jugs of hot water and insulate with a thick towel. This is because the bacteria are still working and producing acid from the remaining lactose.
Next, the cheese is turned again in cloth, the molds stacked 2 high, and weighted at 15 lbs. Turn and re-wrap at 30 minute intervals for the next 4 hours.
The cheese has now been pressed for about 5 hours and should have reached its final acid level and moisture. If you have a pH meter, the final reading should be about 5.2. Remove the weights and you are now ready to salt the cheese in a brine bath.
Remove cheeses from cloth and they are ready to go into the brine at 52°F.The final cheese weight here was 1.5 lbs each and the brine time was 5.5 hrs.
You will need a saturated brine prepared for salting this cheese, find all of the details you need on brining here.
A simple brine formula is:
- 1 gallon of water
- 2.25 lbs of salt
- 1tbs. calcium chloride
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- Bring the brine and cheese to 50-55°F before using.
The cheese will float above the brine surface, so sprinkle a small amount of salt on the top surface of the cheese. Flip the cheese and re-salt the surface about half way through the brine period.
At the end of the brine bath, wipe the surface dry and allow the cheese to surface dry for a day or two at 52°F and 85% moisture. The surface will darken somewhat during this time.
Soak in Wine
It is now time to finish the cheese in the traditional manner. By soaking the cheese in wine for several days, you will increase the surface acidity substantially and make it less hospitable for mold growth and hence less work in the aging space. I could have just used the entire bottle, but I have found that 2 of the cheeses fit nicely in a zip-lok bag and that less wine will do just fine to bathe the cheese when I squeeze out the excess air and zip the bag closed.
Before the wine soak, wash the surface in a light brine (1 tbs. salt in a cup of water) to remove any surface mold that developed and rehydrate the surface.
The 'Vino' I use for the bath is a very dark and aromatic wine from the Petit Sirah grape (nothing petite about this one though). Yes, this is one of my own wines, of course!
I have chosen to use less wine and used a 1 gallon zip-lok bag which just holds the 2 cheeses nicely. I can then use about 12-16 ozs. of wine and reward myself with the rest for all of my hard work here.
I pour the wine into the bag with the cheese and then squeeze as much of the air out as I can before sealing the bag.
If you feel less frugal, then you can use a pan or jar that just holds the 2 cheeses and fill the pot to cover the cheeses.
In either case, be sure to turn the cheese as often as possible so that the entire cheese absorbs the wine evenly.
I then aged the cheese in this bag in the aging room at 52°F for 36 hrs, turning several times.
Next, I removed the cheese from the bag, wiped the surface, and dried it off for 24 hours. This allowed the first dose of wine to migrate into the cheese before the second bath in wine.
Finally, I repeated the wine soak for another 48 hours, turning regularly.
The cheese is now ready for aging at 52-56°F and 80-85% moisture.
The cheese can now be aged for 4-6 weeks at which point, it will ready for your table.
You should see very little mold growth on the surface.
I find that a fine dusting of white mold shows up every 3 or so days and just needs a quick cloth wipe to remove.
Variation Without Wine
Cabra al Romero is made from the same recipe above but the cheese is coated with rosemary instead of wine following the traditional method used by a dairy in the Rufino region of Spain. The cheese is rolled in rosemary. This coat on the outside perfumes the cheese and imparts a gentle herbal aroma. It's a cheese of an extraordinary bouquet and unique creaminess. The Cabra al Romero is aged for a minimum of three months. The rosemary is left to flavor the rind, and permeate the cheese with its aromatics and subtle flavor. In the final days of aging, the cheese is brushed clean of mold and is rubbed with a lot of rosemary again.
The 'Drunken Goat'
No, it's not a party in the pasture for those happy goats but another wonderful Spanish cheese for this month’s recipe and its just in time for this spring's freshening goat's milk.
We know you just can't wait!
It's spring and the goats are back on the grass with milk coming soon!
This month's cheese has a wonderful snow white paste which is very soft and supple with a few small gas holes distributed throughout. The rind has a beautiful purple color to it and the taste and aroma of the wine have migrated throughout the cheese.
A Bit of History
For centuries, wine and cheese have gone well together, so it was not surprising that the two would eventually come in one tasty package. This combo is not something new but a traditional bringing together of the milk and grape. It has probably been done for several hundred years.
n France, we see a similar cheese, called Tomme au Marc which is made with cow's milk from Savoie. This Tomme is aged for several months, covered in the skins and seeds (called marc in France) left over after pressing the wine.
In Italy, we find another similar cheese in the northeast called Ubriaco (the drunken cheese). This is a very different cheese based on a Montasio or Monte Veronese cheese but buried in the same skins and seeds (called vinnacia in Italy).
In Spain, our focus cheese is the result of soaking a very young goats milk cheese in a regional wine instead of the marc/vinnacia mentioned above.
More specifically, it is a regional cheese produced in southeast Spain around the region of Murcia. Its real name is Vino al Murcia but sometimes it is known as Cabra al Vino and without the wine bath it is simply called Cabra al Murcia.
A further variation is Cabra al Romero, meaning Goat Cheese with the rind covered in rosemary.
The cheese comes mostly from an area around the village of Jumilla, located in the province of Murcia. This area lies southeast of Madrid on the way to Caragena and the sea. The area is also known for its wonderful wines made from the Monastrell grape, so the coming of milk and grapes was not such a long stretch of the imagination.
Why Soak Cheese in Wine?
Well, other than the simple fact that it tastes really good, there are more functional reasons.
Once a cheese leaves the mold and is salted, it is a wonderful site for all kinds of molds, yeast and bacteria to settle onto and grow.
So what is a cheese maker to do? Other than waxing or sealing in plastic, one option to control surface growth would be to develop a natural rind by allowing the rind to dry down for a few days and then regular brushing or washing to eliminate them. It's a good plan but more work.
However, somewhere along the path of experience, folks realized that washing with salt or an acidic wash would inhibit the surface molds from growing.
The fact is that these yeast, molds, and bacteria are rather simple forms of life and as such only do well in a rather narrow range of conditions including temperature, salt, acid, moisture, etc.
Normally, a cheese enters the aging room with a moderate level of acid (pH ~ 5.2) and this is easily a good range for the yeast and molds to grow.
Wine, however, is much more acidic (pH 3.2-3.5) thus making it a much more difficult place for molds to grow. Also, the tannins and other components of the wine make the surface much less desirable for surface growth.