- 4 Gallons of Milk (Not UltraPasteurized)
- 1/4 tsp MM100 Culture
- 1/4 tsp Thermo B Culture
- 1/16 tsp C70 Geotrichum Candidum
- 1/32 tsp C10 Bacteria Linens
- 4ml Single Strength Liquid Rennet
- Salt and Calcium Chloride for a Brine
- Calcium Chloride (for pasteurized milk)
- Good Thermometer
- Knife to Cut Curds
- Spoon or Ladle to Stir Curds
- 5 Small Tomme Cheese Molds
- 3 lb Weight for Pressing
- Butter Muslin
- Draining Mat
- Wood Aging Board
- Washed Rind Cheese Wrap
- Reblochon Info
- Q & A
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.
Reblochon, an Alltime Favorite Cheese
Today Reblochon is the #4 best selling cheese in France and was one of the first designated to get the Denomination of Origin which protects a production area and enhances the link to terroir and origin of Reblochon. But, you will not find raw milk Reblochon in America, our overly-protectionist Food Police (FDA) have made this unfortunate change in just the past few years.
So, the only way to experience this gem is to make it yourself.
Reblochon is one of my all time favorite cheeses and the mountains of Haute Savoie one of my favorite places on planet earth and that's saying something considering where my travels have taken me over the years.
The lush summer pastures reaching high into the peaks make a huge difference in the milk.
While visiting a cheesemaker on the mountain, the light on the Aravis peaks was just too much for me to resist. I excused myself from the table to take this picture leaving the cheese and wine behind. When I returned, the conversation turned from making cheese to why it is important to live on the mountain.
I am sure that moments like this are part of why they are here and then we went back to the cheese and wine and talking about life on the mountain
Reblochon, the Illegal Cheese of the 13th century
Since as far back as the 13th century and for many centuries, this was the illegal cheese of the farms in the mountainous region of Savoie France bordering Italy.
Reblochon was the product of a clandestine milking of the animals while avoiding the inspection of the taxman. It resulted in the very rich cheese that was never to see the market table and shared only with family and friends.
This was the way it was until after the French Revolution, following which, freedom was taken from the wealthy land owners and given back to the tenant farmers after the fall of the Ancien Régime.
As a result this cheese was no longer considered to be the secret or illegal cheese of history. It could then be sold openly and quickly gained in popularity.
As of 2004 in America raw milk Reblochon has again become the illegal cheese due to the myopic attitude of our 'Food Safety Lords' (AKA FDA) with their recent changes and enforcement of laws concerning the pasteurization of soft and semi-soft cheese.
Today the only real way to appreciate this cheese as it was developed, is to make it in your own kitchen and we will get to that as soon as I tell you more about this 'Secret Cheese' called Reblochon. Yes, there are some pasteurized versions BUT they are just not the same.
What is Reblochon Cheese
Reblochon is a smallish cheese about 7-8 inches diameter and when ripe collapses to about an inch. The surface is a cream to rose blush showing through a beautiful dusting of mold growth. If it shows a red circle it indicates a fruitier (Coop) production and if it is a green circle on the rind it is fermier or farm production (Yes).
When you slice into it after allowing it to come to room temperature it will soon slowly flow from its shell.
The cheese has a velvety taste of ripe cream and a nutty aftertaste. It has an unctuous and very supple consistency with slight cellar smell, which is quite strong when the cheese is ripe.
In 1958, the producers of Reblochon, were among the first to get the Denomination of Origin protects a production area and enhances the link to terroir and origin of Reblochon.
Reblochon de Savoie farmer is produced manually on the farm with milk from the same herd, 2 times a day, just after milking.
It has the a creamy and the same nutty taste the fruit, its taste is rather more assertive. You can recognize this by its green casein label on the surface of the cheese (usually covered by a thin layer of white mold).
The Reblochon Fermier is one of the only three French AOP cheeses that must be made by the farmers in the high pastures where the cows graze. Each farmer must make his or her own cheese and cannot work with the milk from other farms.
Today the entire production of farm-made cheese is made by fewer than 150 farmers; less and less farmers want to spend five to six months of the year, making cheese in the mountains. That means less farm made cheese and higher prices.
These are collectives in the valleys and the cheese is made from whole milk exclusively.
Reblochon de Savoie PDO cheese is produced with milk collected from several farms in the production area. It is recognizable by its red casein pellet.
In the not too distant past even this milk was all Raw Milk but today much of it is Pasteurized Milk on the Coop level and often made only once per day.
It is very interesting to note that the same cheese is made in Italy just on the other side of the mountains. This is not surprising considering that before the unification of France Savoie encompassed a large portion of northeastern Italy. The center of government was actually Torino Italy.
The process is the same but they call this cheese Rubrichon ('rubra' referring to the rosy surface of the cheese) because of the French PDO designation confining the production area to a specific area in Haute Savoie.
The Mountains of Haute Savoie
Where do I begin with these mountains?
Whenever I fly in to eastern France or northern Italy, Geneva is my destination so that I can at least spend a few days in these beautiful mountains. They are the home to some of the greatest outdoor sports and some of the most beautiful mountain pastures.
The City of Annecy (One beautiful city) and its namesake lake sit just at the base of the mountains and its all splendidly uphill from there. The mountains are dense with pastures and cows with no fences. The summer pastures become ski runs in the winter.
In the valley of Thones as well as all along the spine of the Aravis chain, Reblochon and Tomme de Savoie are the dominant cheese. Further south the cheese becomes much larger in the form of the Beaufort cheese and further north the cheese of Abondance. Essentially everything South of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) south to Grenoble is so worth while.
In this day and age with the small farms decreasing globally, great effort both locally and nationaly are expended to keep thier small farms running. In the Reblochon production areas most people have a summer and winter farm to keep production going year round. Much of the Reblochon is actually sold from the farm door. When we are there we have one farm high in the mountains we always go back to for our cheeses (but we can not tell you where it is). We have tried many cheeses over the years and theirs just happens to suit our taste the best.
Work on these farms is always hard but must be so rewarding to keep the generations coming back.
The photo below left shows how direct these farm sales are, we get a cheese right from the farm door taken fresh off the shelf in the cave.
Life in the mountains is still much the way it was in the past but with a few ammentities such as electricity and easier access to the farms make it easier (but still hard) and more attractive for the generations to remain on the land there.
In France the culture (both private and national) supports keeping the small farms due to their respect for the products they produce and the high esteem they hold for what they eat. A truly sustainable future for land preservation is to keep the small farm working in the way it always has.
A valuable lesson that we should all be looking at I think.
The History of Reblochon
As far back as the 13th century in the Thônes Valley in Haute-Savoie, Reblochon de Savoie PDO has been the product of a secret milking. During the 14th century, Farmers who worked these Alpine pastures needed reward the owner (mostly monks and nobles) on the basis of the milk collected. Under the watchful eye of the taxman (Gruyere), they would do an incomplete milking. They would then come back unnoticed and finish their milking later (in dialect "Re- blocher "means to pinch the udder again.). This second milking is rich in cream and served to make cheese for their own consumption, it was considered the secret cheese and made only for family and friends.
In the 16th century the cheese also became known as "fromage de dévotion" (devotional cheese) because it was offered to the local Carthusian monks of the Thônes Valley by the farmers, in return for having their homesteads blessed. During the early years, transporting cheese out of the mountains was a real hardship so the market was small and few cheeses were sold so herds were small. Up until the early 20th century the production of Reblochon had only reached 40 tons per year.
However, The development of railways, tourism and winter sports have quickly made Reblochon much better known throughout France.
With an increasing market, the herds became larger and production increased. In times past, the cheese was made, aged and sold mostly on the farm by the family. Today however, much of the finishing that was done on the farm in the past is now handed off to a specialist (Affineur) to age and sell. The way this works is that the farm manages the animals, milking, and early production then once a week they bring these to a central market and sell the young Reblochon to the Affineur to ripen in a very specialized manner in their caves and then find a market for them.
Milk is taken from a mix of Montbeliard, Abondance, and Tarine cows two times a day on the farm normally beginning at 5:30 Morning and Afternoon to establish a 12 hour production cycle.
- The Reblochon is made directly after milking and is primarily an uncooked cheese. It takes 7-8 liters (1.8-2.1gallons) of milk heated to 32-33 ° C (89-91F) to make 1Kg (2.2lbs) Reblochon
- (a single cheese weighs about 1 lb.)
- The cheese after processing and salting cools to 17 ° C (62-64F) where they remain for a day or so allowing the first yeast and mold to develop.
- They are then washed with a brush before ending up in the cellar at 14 ° C (57F) where they will be aged.
Whereas the process up to this point is fairly simple and straight forward, the aging is very specific and a proper aging depends on the success with which it is carried out.
During maturation, pine or fir (epicea) serves as aging boards. They are light, resilient and much like a sponge in that they can absorb and give back moisture, the aging boards provide the optimum moisture balance for the young cheese. While on the boards and before the cheese is ripe they are washed several times to encourage the proper surface development.
When the first cheese ripen on the fresh pine boards, the boards are not yet at their best because the aging boards have not yet been seeded with the proper flora. Only after repeated use indicated by the darkening wood and distinct cheese footprints on the surface, that the boards are ready to ripen the best quality.
The board in this phone is the one I've been using for the past few years, note the marks left behind by many reblochons. It is cut to size to fit in my plastic covered trays for proper moisture and a bit of isolation.
My cleaning program is a stiff brush, hot water (no detergent), and a day or so in the sun for the UV to do its own sanitizing. In the mountains I see the same with specialized racks that can be wheeled out nto the sun for exposing their aging boards to some UV. This leaves the proper bios in the board itself. If using a new board it may take a few cycles before these boards work on their own. Until then it is essential to seed the cheese with the proper cultures in the first couple of washes. Eventually these dominate the board bios.
I have made this cheese a few times now, and have had excellent results. I use 5” Tomme moulds which have the right height to diameter ratio. I found that the reason for only washing the top and sides daily is that the cheese has a tendency to stick to the boards, which makes turning difficult. I’ve yet to try using raw milk because at this time of the year our paddocks are quite muddy with all the spring/winter rain. In a few weeks time it will be dry enough to try though. I like the background and history you’ve given to Reblochon. It adds context to the cheesemaking process. Your detail of the process was great, as were all the photos.