Italian Stout Info

When Italy Borrows from Others, They Change Everything

At first glance, you may think this is just another cheddar. You may think a simple beer infusion is a bit passe. A bit pedestrian. A bit provincial.

The Italians thought so too.

It’s the Italian way to import ideas, break them apart, and rebuild them from the ground up. This is why Italians are noted for the best in everything from motorcycles and fast cars to the world of high fashion. They keep it fresh and keep it simple.

This new cheese is a wonderful marriage of dairy and malt. It has all of the wonderful malt flavors and dark aromas you could hope for in an infused cheese, and a more mellow and supple texture than any cheddar we have come across. The beer infusion will leave a distinctive dark ring outlining each curd when cut, and this marbled appearance is sure to stand out on any cheese board.

This new cheese is going to be a bit more manageable for intermediate cheese makers who have made several different cheeses already, mostly due to the many steps involved. However, we heartily encourage newer cheese makers to give this a read! There is much to learn about cheese process here and of course, reading more lends to our inspiration, and keeps us moving on.

Let’s break down this recipe step by step to get a better idea of what the Italians have been up to.

For a typical cheddar worldwide:

  1. The milk is heated, Mesophilic culture and rennet are added.
  2. Curds are cut and cooked for an extended period of time. It is here where the curds are dried and then drained.
  3. The curd is consolidated into a large single mass for several hours until the acid develops to its final levels.
  4. Next, the large mass is torn into smaller curds. This is the point at which beer (warmed to just below curd temperature) would typically be added.
  5. The curds are then drained and salted to stop any further acid development.
  6. Finally the curds are transferred to forms and pressed before waxing and aging.

For this months cheese, a few of our Italian friends have deconstructed this process and rebuilt it better:

  1. The milk is heated to a higher temperature, and Thermophilic culture and rennet are added
  2. Curds are cut and then cooked for only a very brief period of time before draining.
  3. The curd is consolidated into a large single mass for only a few minutes to ensure that very little acid is produced and very little drying occurs.
  4. Next, the large mass is torn into smaller curds. At this point a dark beer, heated hot enough to cook the curds, is added; cooking and drying the curds for several minutes.(Note: the hotter beer infuses the curds far more readily than a cooler beer)
  5. The curds are then drained, but not salted, transferred to forms and pressed.
  6. The pressed curds rest in their forms overnight. (Note: Since no salt has been added, and the curds stay warm in their form for several hours, the culture is still producing acid. Over the course of these hours, the curds will develop their final acid levels; bringing the acidity up to about the same as a proper cheddar.)
  7. The next morning, the new cheese is removed from the mold and receives a dry surface salting, which is continued in stages over the course of several days before waxing and aging.

To summarize for this new cheese

It uses a higher temperature and a thermophilic culture

There is only a brief cook after cut and then draining, as most of the acidity will not develop until the cheese is in the press.

The broken curds are covered in a dark beer that has been heated much hotter than the curds, cooking the curds as it infuses them with flavor As the beer is drained and warm curds put into forms and pressed, the culture is still in its comfort zone. It will continue to work for hours, developing acidity and character.

No salt is added until the next morning when a dry salting begins and lasts over several days

Why we love it:

The thermophilic culture and higher temperature used in this cheese lend a very different texture, softer and more elastic, than your average cheddar curd

The warmer beer travels into the curds much better than a cold soak infusion and thus grants far more flavor and aroma from the beer to the final cheese.

The author of this recipe found all his ingredients locally! Milk from a friend’s farm, beer from a friend’s brewery a short walk away, even the hops and malted barley grew in the same valley.