Author Topic: Alpine recipe  (Read 1793 times)

Offline Alpkäserei

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Alpine recipe
« on: September 12, 2012, 05:30:35 PM »
I decided to put up an in-depth, detailed outline of the recipe used to produce Berner Alpkäse, a traditional Alpine Cheese made only in the mountains of the Swiss Canton of Bern. Even though I have a topic already, I decided to make this so there would be an easy reference, easy to find recipe up here.

It is VERY VERY important to note that this is the recipe according to local specifics, and if you follow these steps exactly with a small home batch, you WILL NOT get the same cheese. Following the steps as laid out here will work great for a large batch of about 120 to 150 liters, but certain alterations must be made if you are making a batch of say 10 or 20 liters. I will note that as I go along.

This is a good recipe to use if you have a minimum of equipment. You do not ever test for Ph, and so forth. The recipe itself is not complicated, but it does require a good deal of skill to master. There is a lot that simply cannot be learned by reading.

But for those willing to give it a go, here is the recipe:

  • The evening milk is skimmed and the cream added to the vat. Often times butter is made with some or all of the cream. Otherwise, it is just added so that it can melt back into the milk easier.
  • The morning milk is added directly from the cow to the vat
  • The culture, incubated wey from the previous day's cheese, is added with the morning milk
  • This is heated to 32 to 34 degrees Reamur, 40 to 42.5 Celsius, 104 to 108.5 Fahrenheit. . Timing here does not matter, it is very important at other stages
  • The rest of the evening milk is now added, and the whole is then brought to 25.5 to 26 R, or 31-32.5 C, 89-91 F. The actual temperature depends on your air temperature. If it's cold, you need to bring it up a little hotter so that the culture can work properly.
  • The rennet is added, and let to sit. Time depends on your rennet strength, milk quality, air temp, ph, and so forth but should be about 30 min.
  • Once properly set, the harp is used to cut the curd into large chunks. It is cut first toward the cheesmaker, then across.
  • The top of the curd is then turned over with ladles that look something like little dust pans, and then these are used to stir up and cut the chunks from the bottom of the vat. The whole mass is slowly stirred like this for about 10 minutes, at which time the whey should have turned from white to a nice green-yellow color. If it hasn't, then stir a little longer. If it never does, then your culture is not working.
  • Using a careful technique, usually making an 8-shaped pattern, the vat is stirred with the harp. The speed depends on the size of the cheese, but you want to stir so that the desired curd size is reached after 10 minutes of stirring like this. For a large cheese, the grain should be the size of a large grain of wheat. For a smaller cheese it will be more like a coffee been or grain of corn. A smaller cheese will dry out more easily, so the curd is left larger. You can also customize the hardness of your cheese to your own personal preference at this stage by altering the size you cut the curd. smaller curd will make a harder cheese, and so forth. The cheese produced in this recipe is quite hard and very dense.
  • Using another tool that will stir the curd but not continue to cut it, the cheese is stirred for about 40 minutes. It must be slow, but still rapid enough to keep the curds from clumping together.
  • The vat is now placed over the fire again, and over a period of as close to 40 minutes as possible it is heated to 41 R (51 C, 124 F). It must be stirred constantly at this stage. It is very nice to have a motorized stirrer or an assistant for this task!
  • After the proper temperature is reached, the vat is removed from the heat and stirred for about 5 more minutes.
  • The curd is then pulled from the vat and kneaded into the form.
  • The cheese is pressed and flipped several times, first for 5, then 10, then 20, then 40 min. etc. until finally it is left in the press overnight. The cheese should be covered when in the press so it does not lose its heat too quickly.
  • The next morning, the cheese is placed into a salt brine where it will remain for 24 hours.
  • The cheese is washed after coming out of the brine, and then flipped and washed each day for 10 days. The wash is a solution of saltwater, with some white wine. At this point, temperature is not important as long as it is 70 F or lower, and RH should be 85 % or higher (RH is vital, temp is not) If temp is too high, eyes will form which are not wanted.
  • After the first 10 days, the cheese is then washed 1 or 2 times a week until the end of the season. This will be 1 to 4 months depending on when the particular cheese was made. The same conditions apply for RH and temp. Though here it is much more vital to ensure that temp does not exceed 70. 60 to 65 is ideal
  • The cheese are then moved to the aging cellar. They are not washed any more but allowed to dry off. The temperature should ideally be around 55 F and RH around 90% or so. It is better to ere on temp being too low rather than too high. Proprianic Shermanii will grow if the cheese is too warm. We do not want that.

The culture is an heiloom culture. But you can make a very close cheese if you can acquire the following strains, or similar.
Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. lactis
Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus
Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis

Note that Proprianibacterium is undesired, and proprionic acid and the accomanying eyes are considered to be a major flaw in Berner Alpkäse. There is a misconception that all Swiss cheeses should have propriani, but very many of them strive to keep this strain of bacteria from growing. If a wheel of Alpkäse is cut open and many holes are found, it cannot be sold.

And if any of you take offense at my occasional use of holes instead of eyes, I should not that in German the term used is Locher, which translates to holes ;)

If you want to make a small batch of cheese, there are special considerations.
-The curd should be cut much much larger
-certain measures may need to be taken to retain the proper heat at some stages where the cheese is worked away from the heat for long periods of time.
-Radical measures such as pressing under liquid may be necessary to retain enough temperature when pressing the cheese. The curd should knit together perfectly fine with the first and second pressing, but if temperature is not maintained than some of the higher range thermophilic bacteriae will not have enough time to work their magic.

This is a raw milk cheese. The character of the milk lends a lot of flavor to the cheese. If you can get grass fed milk, I highly recommend it. It has a more complex chemical structure, and in general will yield more cheese compared to the same volume of grain fed milk. It also tends to have a more complex flavor profile.

The Oberlanders who make this cheese like it to be very old. 1 year is considered to be the minimum age by many, and it will not develop its full flavor profile until after 2 years. The cheese is quite hard and dense, and as such it is very satisfying. It also is naturally lacking in Lactose, like most of the cheeses in its family, and can be safely consumed by those who are lactose intolerant.

If you can cook it in copper, you really should. It does not taste the same out of steel, and the Swiss never make cheese in steel vats. There is something about copper that affects the way the cheese processes.

I hope this helps someone. If you have any questions, just ask.

I make cheese in large batches, so I can't say how to size this for 10 gallons. Perhaps together we can come up with a small batch recipe. It won't be the same, but it will be close at least.

This cheese is my favorite cheese, it has a strong yet very pleasant flavor. It lacks the bitterness of Emmentaler and the hard bite of proprianic acid. It has a very complex, nutty flavor quite similar to a well matured Parmiggiano Reggiano, but more complex and better defined. It also will have some salt crystals throughout as a result of its extreme age.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2012, 06:41:40 PM by Alpkäserei »
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Offline bbracken677

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2012, 09:49:10 PM »
Very nice! Thanks for the recipe!

Online hoeklijn

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2012, 01:25:58 AM »
Added this to my bookmarks, again one more cheese to try....
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Offline Alpkäserei

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2012, 11:52:52 AM »
    The cheese shown above,
Berner Alpkäse, is a very difficult to cheese to get just right.

In the Alpine family, there is another similar cheese that is far easier to make, and is perhaps a better introduction to this style of cheese. this is the Mutschli. Mutschli is a semi-hard cheese (some would call it hard, but this is what the Swiss call it. They classify cheeses a little differently) and it is aged up to 4 months, instead of the 2 years you often see for the Alpkäse.

The procedure though is very similar. The biggest difference is that it is not cooked to as high of  a temperature, and as such it is not as picky with exact timing and such. on the Alpkäse, precise timing is very important. On the Mutschli, you can afford a few mistakes without drastically changing the cheese.

This is a classic Alpine cheese, one that is found throughout German-speaking Switzerland. It is a secondary cheese, made when the milk is not good enough to make the higher quality Alpkäse.

Here is how it is made:

    Mutschli
    • Heat the milk, with culture added, to 32 to 34 degrees Reamur, 40 to 42.5 Celsius, 104 to 108.5 Fahrenheit. You can follow the same procedure for melting in the cream as the Alpkäse above.
    • Add rennet and set for 30 to 40 minutes (as in the Alpkäse, if the rennet takes more than 40 minutes to set it is either mixed improperly or not strong enough)
    • Cut coarsely with harp
    • Turn and stir curd as in Alpkäse above, for 10 minutes
    • With careful 8-pattern technique, stir with the harp until the curd grain is about the size of a coffee bean. This should take 10 minutes.
    • Stir for 30 minutes so that the culture can work
    • Heat to 29 R (36 C, 97 F) over a period of about 30 minutes
    • Remove and knead into small forms. THese traditional are small round wooden froms, called Vätterli, the Alpkäse is formed in a large adjustable wooden form called Järb
    • The cheese is washed and turned daily for 10 days to develop the rind
    • It is washed and turned once a week for a period of 3 weeks to 4 months, at which time it is ready to eat.

Since it is cooked only to 97 degrees, the timing at the cooking stage will not have a great affect on the cheese texture.

Also note, the name Mutschli is not a protected name, and as such there is no exact standard of ow to make it. This means that the exact methods, temperatures, times, etc. tend to vary depending on who is making it. On the Alp where I learned, we actually cooked it slightly higher, to 31 R as opposed to 29 R, for example. At these temperatures, a few degrees does not make a major difference. At the higher cooking temperatures of the Alpkäse, 2 degrees of temperature variation would make a huge difference to the character of the cheese.

If you make a cheese more or less along the lines of this recipe, you can call it Mutschli, and no Swiss would argue with you.

If you mess up on the Alpkäse recipe even a slight bit, however, you can't call it Alpkäse.
Actually, We can't call it Berner Alpkäse at all, since we aren't making it in the Bernese Alps. [/list]
« Last Edit: September 20, 2012, 06:42:10 PM by Alpkäserei »
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Offline Alpkäserei

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2012, 06:41:07 PM »
I made a mistake on my recipes, I'll not it here, and change it above as well.

For the first heating, the milk should be warmed to 32 to 34 degrees Reamur, 40 to 42.5 Celsius, 104 to 108.5 Fahrenheit.
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Offline Alpkäserei

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2012, 06:42:40 PM »
I made a mistake on my recipes, I'll note it here, and change it above as well.

For the first heating, the milk should be warmed to 32 to 34 degrees Reamur, 40 to 42.5 Celsius, 104 to 108.5 Fahrenheit.
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Online ArnaudForestier

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2014, 01:25:11 PM »
Alp, I just have to tell you, thank you for all this.  Your chronicles of these cheeses and the traditional way they're made in your ancestral homeland are truly, inspirationally, moving.  I'm French blooded and the Savoie holds for me some of the sentiments you hold of the Swiss Alps.  That said, I'm deeply enamoured of Swiss alpine cheeses (just bought up 10 wedges of various gruyères and other swiss alpine makes yesterday) and particularly after my transformational experience with L'Etivaz, my thoughts roam closer to your part of the world.

I understand the benefit of direct fired vats, I think (I feel the same way about brewing - no comparison between a direct fired kettle v. steam jacketed kettle, in my opinion); I also get copper, I think, at least its thermal properties, and do trust in your 1000 year tradition of using the material.

Would you be willing to speak a bit as to how you manage heat, if using wood?  Do you have a means to raise and lower your vat, or move it back and forth across the flame pit, if using wood, to otherwise raise or lower the heat intensity and vat temperature?

Also, traditional practice aside, how do you feel about a direct, gas-based flame, e.g., propane?  Why?

Thank you again.
- Paul

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2014, 08:55:02 PM »
<<Bump.>> 

I have an immense respect and love for this kind of traditional craft. 

Quote
Would you be willing to speak a bit as to how you manage heat, if using wood?  Do you have a means to raise and lower your vat, or move it back and forth across the flame pit, if using wood, to otherwise raise or lower the heat intensity and vat temperature?

Anyone have any thoughts on this?  I'd love to learn how they do it, with wood fire...
- Paul

Offline Tallpoppy

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2014, 01:21:16 AM »
while not swiss.  this video is of a northern italian making cheese on open fire with copper pot.

Channel Cheese - Traditional making of Toma Ossolana by hand in Northern Italy - How to make cheese!

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2014, 06:09:58 AM »
Wonderful.  Thank you so much, Tallpoppy, cheese to you.  I wonder if Alp is doing this, using a swivel.  I've seen many setups where it appears the vat is fixed in place, over a kind of open-pit stone hearth.  I've wondered if some are on winches, too, to simply raise the cauldron.
- Paul


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Offline Alpkäserei

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2014, 01:04:18 PM »
Sorry for not responding, I have just returned home from Nicaragua

I sent some info regarding wood heat via PM, but I'll say some here for the benefit of the others,

Wood heat is easy to manage, you can control heat by making a bigger fire and by changing how deep the kettle is set into the firebox. It's very easy to learn. Each setup works differently, but it's not hard to manage at all

The most common arrangement has the copper kettle hung from a wooden arm, which is mounted to a wooden pivot post. This arrangement is called a 'Turner'
You control heat by swinging the vat completely away from the fire when it does not need heating, and swinging it in when it needs to be heated. You can't simply remove the flue, because the firebox itself hold on to residual heat. This is also the disadvantage of steam jackets over open fire vats, but usually jacketed vats are so huge it hardly matters. Compare a 150l swung vat to a 2000l jacketed vat...

Others instead hang the vat from a chain. This chain is fixed to a wheel that runs in a track mounted to the ceiling. This is a modern setup suited to large vat sizes -600l and up, usually.

I never ran across gas fired vats, but it would work fine. I have seen gas fired vats for other applications (non cheese) using copper, and there are not problems. But you don't want to haul explosive propane up to the mountain, so they don't use it. They use wood which is pretty easy to move around. Even modern operations that use steam vats will often use wood as the heat source.

I am actually considering, when I build my second structure which will become the main part of my operation to have a gas fired vat. If plausible, I may make my gas via a digester to eat up manure, whey, and other organic trash to produce biogas (mostly methane)

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Offline elkato

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2014, 10:33:02 PM »
Thank you for the recipe Alp
I am have a great interest in making an Alpkase type cheese, I have 13 cows that give about 200 Lt of organic, grass fed milk every day!
I am making a good Tomme, a Cheddar a Raclette alongside fresh Mexican cheeses like Oaxaca, Panela and Ranchero. My Raclette is too similar to the Tomme, so I need something a little different  ArnaudForestier (Paul) has been very helpful sharing his Knowledge with me and with your recipes and also Sailor´s  I am attempting to get this right (the Mexican terroir version)
One thing that intrigues me is the step where you skim the evening milk, and mix the cream with the morning milk and the culture and you heat to 35-40c and then mix  with the morning milk
since I have a milking cycle I can do just that, but why skim and separate the cream if you are going to melt it again in the milk?
I understand the skimming if you are going to keep the evening cream out to lower the total fat% in the final cheese, but why separate when you are going to mix it back?
I am using DVI cultures because I am not all the time in the factory, I have 2 very helpful employers and making whey and yogurt mother cultures would just add one more thing that could go wrong in a large batch of cheese, so I am using  25% MA 019 75% thermo mix of TA054 and LH100
I hope you think this mix can work
Best regards Luis.
 

Offline Alpkäserei

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2014, 07:53:19 PM »
This ensures that the cream gets melted thoroughly before you add the rennet
Also, it puts the mesophilic cultures native to the milk that have ripened overnight into the vat to ripen a little more, adding a little more depth to the flavor.

If you don't do this, you run the risk that the cream from the evening milk would be not completely dissolved when you add the rennet, which will cause flaws in the cheese.

Of course the simplest solution to this if you are not separating any cream is to store your milk in a bulk tank with an agitator.
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Offline elkato

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Re: Alpine recipe
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2014, 12:57:20 PM »
I get it, thank you Alp
best regards
Luis.