This is a generic recipe for making Alpine. Alpine cheese is a traditional style originating from the mountainous regions of France and Switzerland. The animals are grazed primarily on their way up to high altitudes. Consequently, the cheeses tend to be leaner due to the animals’ more difficult living circumstances. Often the cheeses are made at mountain-based facilities.
- INOCULATE THE MILK: The evening before you plan to make cheese, warm 1 gallon of the freshest milk to 20C (68 o F) in the sterilized pot. Thoroughly blend in the inoculum of 1/3rd cup yogurt as starter. (The function of this inoculation with bacterial starter is to have the milk fermenting bacteria make lactic acid which lowers the pH so that the rennet will be able to act on the casein). Cover the inoculated milk with the sterilized lid. Let sit at room temperature overnight (20-22C/68-72F).
- WARM THE MILK: The next morning, warm milk up to 30 C/86 F (take care not to burn it). Meanwhile, dissolve ¼ tablet of Rennet in ¼ cup cold water.
- ADD THE RENNET: Add dissolved rennet to the warmed milk, stir to mix thoroughly. Cover, let sit undisturbed for approximately an hour. Be patient. Do not disturb the milk until it has coagulated.
- ACHIEVE A CLEAN BREAK: Test for completed action of rennet (“clean break”): Probe a clean finger into the (hopefully) gelled milk and lift. If the gel is firm enough to break cleanly as the finger is lifted, go to next step. (If the milk is gelatinous and flows across your finger, let sit until a clean break is obtained. Do not stir. This may take as long as 1-2 hours.) Be patient, do NOT disturb the milk. (Here is a link to trouble shoot “clean break” failure).
- CUT THE CURD: Once a clean break is achieved, cut the curd with a long knife: Begin at edge of pot, cut straight down to bottom. Cut repeatedly parallel to first cut, but increasing the angle of the knife until reaching other side of pot. Rotate the pot 90 degrees, cut as before. Rotate and cut two more times, yielding ½ inch cubes of curd.
- STIRRING AND COOKING THE CURD: Stir the curd for 10 min while cutting the larger cubes with a knife. Remove some whey and warm it to 50 C/122º F and use it to raise the temperature of the curd slowly at the rate of 1° C/2 F every 5 minutes until the temperature of the curds is 38ºC/100ºF in about 30 minutes. Further cooking of the curd and testing curd firmness. Continue stirring at 38ºC/100ºF intermittently for another 30 minutes. While stirring the curd, pick a few curds in your hand and press together. When the curds do not stick together but are firm to the touch with rubbery texture, they are by then well “cooked”.
- DRAINING THE WHEY: Once the curds are sufficiently firm, whey is drained off by either decanting, scooping or pouring through some cheese cloth.
- PRESSING THE CURD: Put the curds in a cylindrical mould. Cover with a piece of cheese cloth. Cover with a fitting wooden follower. Place the cheese press cover in position and put on 10 kg/22 lb weight for a 1 kg/2 lb cheese. After one hour of initial pressing the cheese are turned by quickly flipping the moulds over. Replace the cheese in the moulds upside down. The weight is increased to 15 to 20 kg/33 to 44 lb per 1 kg/2 lb cheese weight and the cheese is pressed overnight.
- SALTING THE CHEESE: After removing the cheese from the mould, place the cheese in brine consisting of 1 1/2 cups salt per quart of water. Place the cheese in the brine for 6 hours. Note, the cheese will take more salt the more they stay in the brine. Smaller cheese (e.g. 500 gr/1 lb) may require shorter time (6 – 8 hours) to absorb same concentration of salt as the big cheese (1-2 kg/2-4 lb) will absorb in 12 hours. With experience you will learn to keep each cheese just long enough for the right salt level in the final cheese. Salting by brine gives uniform salt distribution in the cheese.
- CURING THE CHEESE: After removing the cheese from the brine water, the cheese is placed on wooden shelves in a curing room or cabinet. A cool, clean ripening room is important for good quality cheese. The cheese is turned once every day for the first 4 a 5 days. In high altitude areas (1700 m/~ 1 mile) lower and more stable temperatures (17-22° C/63-72 F) and higher humidity may be more easily attained in underground cellars (3-4 m/10-13 ft) below ground. After 1 week the cheese may be turned every other day and wiped with a strong salt solution to remove the moulds. The wooden shelves should also be thoroughly cleaned with brine and occasionally scrubbed with hot water and let dry before replacing the cheese. Strive to keep the surface of the cheese as clean as possible. The cheese is usually ripe in 6-8 weeks.
- Option: Cut curds into smaller 1/4″/0.5 cm cubes to get lower moisture content.