Monday, October 31, 2011

Robiola with Simona Carini

Simona Carini
Her cheese just gets better and better!

We first featured Simona as one of our guest bloggers last June (English Style Coulommiers).  Then, later that summer, she attended one of our advanced classes in French Cheese Making (Notes From One of Jim Wallace's Workshops).  Note:  Jim will be teaching this same workshop again November 19-20th.

Simona teaches how to make cheese and how to speak Italian at her beautiful website, Briciole - An idiosyncratic and opinionated dictionary of Italian words related to food, with audio accompaniment - and recipes.  You can hear her pronounce the words that appear in italics in her posts by pressing a button at the end of the article.  (It's very cool!)

I asked her how her cheese making had changed since she took the workshop:

A very good question: I am using the pH meter (not always, to be honest, but I understand now how important it is) and in general I am more confident.

You see, I started making cheese on my own and before taking Jim's workshop, I sometimes wondered whether I was missing something important or making some systematic mistake.

At the workshop, I realized I am doing ok, and since I got some burning questions answered, I now feel more confident in my experiments.

formaggio fatto in casa: robiola

HOMEMADE ROBIOLA
By Simona Carini at Briciole

on the cutting board, with salt-and-pepper cookies

Remember the photo I published recently for Black and White Wednesday where I held in my hand a nice piece of fresh cheese? I wrote then that I would talk a bit more about the cheese portrayed and that is what I will do in this post. I will actually talk very little, since everything you need to know about making the cheese is on the robiola recipe page of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company website.

The page is authored by Jim Wallace. Having attended a workshop led by him earlier this year means that now, when I read the articles he writes, I can hear his voice providing instructions and guidance. As Jim explains in the introductory notes, there are various types of robiola. If you do a google image search after specifying robiola in the search field, you can get some idea of what those cheeses look like.

Since everything you need to know to make the cheese is on the relevant page, here I am sharing a few photos from my experience making it. I made it three times. The first time, I misjudged my mold needs, so I ended up with good-tasting cheese of weird shapes. I then got a ricotta basket and used that and the one I already had to mold the curds. Basically, I followed Jim's instructions (which, of course, I should have done to begin with).


The photo above shows one of the baskets with the curds, resting on a grate that rests on a raised metal support, all placed inside a plastic container: this is so that the whey (siero di latte) can drain freely. I set aside the first two cups or so of whey and used it to make bread. I used the rest to water one of my rhododendrons. As mentioned previously, I have recently started to use cheese netting instead of cloth. There are some drawbacks, but the advantage is easy cleaning and handling.

The time from addition of rennet (caglio) to cutting the curd (cagliata) was 5.5 hours. The amount of calcium chloride I used is 1/8 teaspoon.

Up close and personal with robiola draining in a ricotta mold

robiola spending some time in brine...

then drying well before being put in the cheese fridge for a brief aging

The top photo shows what was left of one robiola after I cut some for dinner with my friend Christine of Christine Cooks and her husband and packed some for them to bring home. We enjoyed the lovely, fresh-tasting cheese, which I served with slices of pears.


A variation on the theme of formaggio con le pere (cheese with pears) is shown above, where the fruit is an Asian pear. There is a bit more to this, so I will leave you kind of hanging until I have time to reveal more.

The robiola we have eaten so far has been aged for a short period of time, in the order of 4-7 days. However, the very last small wheel has just spent two weeks in the fridge, due to our travels. Though slowly, due to the low temperature, the cheese has matured further and we are enjoying it on bread or pears.

I recommend this recipe to both the beginner and the experienced cheese-maker: it is pretty straightforward, the result can be tasted within a few days of making it, and the resulting cheese is very nice.

More from Simona at Briciole

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