Guideline for Making Reblochon Cheese
This is a cheese for those that want to move up to developing the natural washed rind cheese as it is considered to be the best place to start with a washed or smeared rind cheese. You may find it an easy cheese to make up to the brining phase but developing the special mold focused surface and keeping the proper moisture will require some schedualed attention.
Acidify & Heat Milk
Full fat raw milk will yield the best and most traditional cheese, but a good quality pasteurized milk will also work.
Begin by heating the 4 gallons milk to 94F (34.5C). 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 the correct temperature the culture can be added. We are using both mesophilic (aromatic) and a thermophilic yogurt blend. This would be typical of the farm cultures in the mountains using raw milk. Our temperature of 94F is at the higher end of meso range and the lower end of the thermo range. The thermo with its bulgaricus profile will aid in the aging to reduce the paste of the cheese to its unctuous state (YUMM!).
Note: Culture additions if using raw milk
- Thermophilic 1/8 tsp ThermoB or 1-1.25 oz of Yogurt-Y1 (must be made up as a yogurt beforehand)
- Mesophilic 1/8 tsp MM100 or 1 pack Buttermilk culture
- Ripening Molds 1/16 tsp Geotrichum and 1/32 B.linens culture
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 now needs to be kept at this target temperature until it is time to increase for cooking the curds. Hold the milk with culture quiet for the next 60 minutes to allow the culture to begin doing its work. It will be very slow initially but will soon kick into its more rapid rate of converting lactose to lactic acid.
Coagulate with Rennet
Then add about 4ml of single strength liquid rennet (only add 2ml of rennet for raw milk)
The milk now needs to sit quiet for 20 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. You will begin noticing the milk thickening at about 12-14 minutes but give it the full time and check to make sure you have a good curd set before cutting.
The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.
Cut Curds & Release Whey
Once you are sure you have a firm curd, cut the curd into 3/8-1/2" cubes over 15-20 min. I do this first with a curd knife for the vertical cuts, then with a wire whisk (that I have pulled and stretched apart) to cut the curds horizontally.
Once cut, gently stir the curds for 5-10 min. The final curd texture and moisture will be determined by size of curd cut. Stir until the curds have a tendency to mat (ie. compresses well but is not dry enough to break apart). It may take a few trials to get this just right.
Test for moisture by collecting a thin layer of curds in your hand, allow to drain well, then flip your hand over. If the curds drop off they are too wet if they stick to your hand it's time to drain the whey and transfer the curds to molds.
When the correct dryness is reached the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey.
Form the Curds
Lay the cheese molds out on a draining surface. I like to use one large piece of cloth for all the molds laid side by side in a tight group.
Once the curds have settled to the bottom, the whey can be removed from above the curd mass. Leave about 1 inch of whey above the curds to make it easier to transfer to molds. On the farms they just move the curds with buckets but here I am a bit less aggressive and use a small bowl so the curds end up in the molds. The curd should be heaped over the molds and then pile the excess on top of each mold opening.
This transfer of curd to the mold is done rather quickly so that the cheese can be turned quickly, otherwise they do not develop the nice close surfaced rinds for washing. As soon as the curd is all in the molds, the cheese can be turned and they should they already show a good consolidation with a smooth surface on turning. A 3 lb weight is all that is needed and the follower and weight are added to the surface that was just turned up in the molds. Turn again twice over the next 30 minutes.
For weight I use a quart mason jar filed with warm water, the jar and water weigh just about 3 lbs and the warmth helps the cheese keep its temperature.
At this point in the process the cloths and weight can be removed and the cheese returned to the molds. Not much time has passed and the cheese are still developing their acidity and will continue for the next several hours. They must be kept reasonably warm as they lose their heat but the cheese room temperature works fine here. 75F for about 3-4 hours with the 3 lb weight works fine here. They should continue ripening for about 12 hours from the time the culture was added.
At this point they should have developed their final acidity of about pH 5.3-5.4.
You should have a saturated brine prepared for salting this cheese. You will find all of the details you need on brining here.
A simple brine formula is:
- 1 gallon of water
- 2.25 lbs of salt
- 1 Tbs calcium chloride
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- Bring the brine and cheese to 50-55¡F before using.
The cheese now needs to be set in the brine for about 1.5 hours. The cheese will float above the brine surface so sprinkle another teaspoon or 2 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, allow the cheese to rest into the next day at room temperature then they can be placed on boards and moved to the aging space.
The next day they are moved to the warm space at 58-62F and 92-95% moisture where they will rest for several days.
Cheese in the traditional caves in the Aravis region where they are produced on the farms There is still a lot of work left to get the character of the washed rind.
Most of us do not have these natural moist and stable temperature spaces for aging that they traditionally use in the caves and cellars of the mountains so we need to find our own solutions for the aging environment. Here I have a resting space at 58-62F and a cold room at 52F and 80-85% moisture but just not quite suited for the Reblochon. Neither is moist enough to ripen this cheese so I use covered plastic trays to maintain the moisture at 92-95% for the cheese as shown below.
I had mentioned earlier as well the importance of the boards used for aging this cheese and how they are washed only with hot water and left in the sun for a day. The board I use below is used only for my reblochon and much of the surface flora is in the board now I am sure.
At this point, you are well on your way to a fine Reblochon but you are not done yet. What comes next is the finishing or affinage and this will take a bit of 'TLC' on your part.
The real character of the Reblochon comes from the washed rind surface and the enzymes that they produce. This will change both the texture and flavor of the finished cheese. The specific molds you add along with some natural yeast from your environment will form a very competitive surface which should exclude any other growths. As this surface develops, it will produce enzymes that will change the proteins and help to soften the interior of the cheese.
Below is a ripening schedule:
day 0 (make day) the cheese is made, salted and allowed to rest overnight
day 1&2 The cheese rests at 58-62F and 92-95% moisture. this will allow the ambient yeast from the room to establish itself. On day 2 prepare a wash using 1 cup of clean water (boil and cool if not sure) and 1Tbs salt plus a pinch of each Geotrichum and B.linens . A pinch of sugar may help as well. leave this overnight in a sanitized jar with cover at room temperature to develop.
day 3 or 4 at this point you should notice a distince sweet fruity smell and the surface will seem a bit greasy feeling. This is the growth of yeast that prepares the surface and reduces the acidity.
As soon as this develops the surface can be washed clean with cool salted water (1cup +1Tbs salt) using a sanitized cloth. Not everyone does this but I learned this from one of Reblochons finest affineurs, Jos Paccard. The yeasts initial work is done and this presents a clean slate for the next stage of mold development.
The top surface and sides should be wiped with the salt/mold solution prepared on day 2 above. The next day turn the cheese and repeat. Then turn daily from here on. The surface should never be too wet nor too dry. It should seem dampish but never swampy or slimy. Also avoid drying too much.
day 7 you should begin to notice the white mold of Geotrichum beginning to show
day 9 the Geo should now show on the surface a well established growth and the cheese now and move to the cool space at 52-56F and maintain the 90+% moisture.
The top surface and sides should be wiped with the salt/mold solution prepared as on day 2 above. The next day turn the cheese and repeat. Then turn daily until wrapped.
day 14 at this point the surface should be well established. The cheese can now be wrapped in the Washed rind wrap. It still needs to be kept cool and protected from moisture loss but the wrap will act as a buffer to stabilize moisture until ripe.
Try to do the wrapping at cave temperature because if the cheese is brought out to room temerature it will tend to gather condensation and cause the wrap to stick. In France they use a thin circle of spruce veneer to protect the paper.
day 45-60 the cheese should be ripe depending on the degree desired.