Author Topic: Small Batch Alpkäse  (Read 917 times)

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Small Batch Alpkäse
« on: November 01, 2012, 09:05:09 PM »
The Alpine tradition of cheesemaking is one of the world's oldest. Pliny the Elder wrote of the the Helvetii and their hard cheese in the mid first century, which in in his day were already a part of an old and well developed tradition. Considered by some to be the ancestor of all hard cheeses, the Alpine cheese type should not be underestimated. Berner Alpkäse is one of hundreds of Swiss cheese types developed from this ancient tradition. It is produced only in the Alps of the Swiss Canton of Bern and the name Berner Alpkäse is a protected label, having AOC status in Switzerland and protected by international treaty.

This cheese is produced in small batches only during the summer months when the region's cows are grazing on high mountain pastures called 'Alp' in Swiss German. Hence the name, Alpkäse.

This cheese is characterized by a spicy, nutty flavor, and rich herbal undertones due to the alpine grasses. It is a washed rind or smear ripened cheese. All Berner Alpkäse is produced in copper kettles, which the Swiss claim lends an added depth to the flavor that cannot be achieved with stainless steel.

This is an adaptation of the traditional recipe intended for small home production. The recipe is adapted from large-batch (relative to at-home production) practices as well as recipes for similar cheeses already so adapted.

Vorsicht!
This cheese is a notoriously difficult cheese to master. The production of Berner Alpkäse is a very skilled craft. The tolerances in this recipe are incredibly tight, and slight errors (especially during the cooking stage) can make a huge difference. This is not recommended as a first cheese, if you have no experience.

I give in the ingredients 1 gallon, I recommend you use more than this as it will yield a very small cheese with too much rind. But you can use this for scale purposes. At least 5 gallons I would say should be considered the minimum.

Ingredients

-1 gallon of Fresh milk. Raw milk if at all possible.
-3 oz. Thermophilic culture such as LH100 or C2. Alternately, 1/3 cup of active culture (I would recommend greek style) yogurt can be used, and yield very good results. I would personally prefer this over powdered culture.
-Rennet, dissolved in clean water. Measured in the proper amount to set the milk in 30 minutes.

Directions:

-Take 1/2 of the milk aside and stir in the culture. Cover, and set apart. Do this immediately beforehand for powdered culture, or hours before if using yogurt. Milk and culture should both be at room temperature. It may be helpful to warm the yogurt slowly to incubating temperature (c. 100 degrees) before adding to milk.
-Warm the other half of the milk to 100 degrees.
-slowly add the cultured milk to the heated milk. These steps will help to replicate a traditional procedure, which affects culture development.
-heat the mixed milk back to 91 degrees.
- slowly add the rennet to the milk, stirring constantly.
-With a whisk, stir very well for several minutes. Much more thoroughly than you might think is needed.
-Cover and let sit undisturbed.
-After 30 minutes, test for clean break. The curd should be soft but still break cleanly.

During the Vokäsen and Brühen stages, it may be helpful (particularly with very small batches) to keep the cheese in a warm (c. 90 F) water bath so that the cheese does not loose too much temperature, affective the culture activity.

The Vorkäsen

The Vorkäsen begins with the cutting of the curd and ends with the warming.

-with a long knife, slowly cut the curd. Make a clean cut down the center, and then make parallel cuts at about 1 inch intervals. Make a second series of cuts at 1 inch intervals at 90 degrees to the first cutting.
-With a bowl, saucer, large ladle, spatula or large spoon slowly stir the curd. Use the knife to cut any larger chunks of curd (in German, the Bruch)
-Continue stirring until the whey begins to change color from a pale white to a light yellow. This should take place about 10 minutes after the cutting began.
-With a whisk or harp (if you are fortunate enough to have one) stir the curd slowly and with an 8 pattern so that the curd is further cut until it is the size of a pea or a large coffee bean. Stir at such a speed that this takes about 10 minutes. It is important that the curd size be as consistent as possible. This makes a difference during the cooking stage.

The Brühen

-Using the same tool that was used to stir the curd the first time, stir the curds slowly for 30 minutes. This gives the culture the opportunity to develop, which will make the finished cheese better and help with aging.

It is important that at no time from the beginning of cutting until drawing out the curd the cheese be allowed to rest. This lets the curd clump.

The Wärmen

-Still stirring slowly, begin to heat the cheese. The goal is to raise the temperature to 125 degrees in as close to 40 minutes as possible. During the first ten minutes, the heating should be especially slow and you should try and not heat more than 10 degrees during this time.
-As soon as 125 degrees has been reached, even if the 40 minutes are not over with, remove from heat.
-continue to stir for 5 minutes. (If you want a softer cheese, omit this step)
-Remove the curd as quickly as possible and knead into form. Press off excess whey with your hands. (Ausziehen)
-The form used should be such that the cheese will be no shorter than 4 inches. 5 inches is preferable. It should be no taller than 6 inches.
-Recommended pressing weight is c. 8 pounds of pressure for every pound of cheese being pressed.
-Either well covered or under warm (120 degree) whey, press with the following schedule, flipping each time:
5 minutes
10 minutes (If you add any labels, do so now)
20 minutes
40 minutes (after this point, it is no longer necessary to keep covered or under whey)
1 hour
2 hours
4 hours (at this point, it may be advisable the the pressing proceed in a cool room if possible)
Overnight,so that the cheese is pressed for 20 to 24 hours.
-Remove from press and place into fully saturated brine.
-Brine for 6 to 8 hours.
-Wash the cheese daily for the first 10 days, then weekly for 2 months.
-Let age, preferably for at least 1 year. This cheese should not be eaten younger than 6 months, it will not have the proper flavor and texture.

The washing can be in many forms. I use a solution of weak salt brine with white wine. Red wine can be used to get a dark or even black rind. Another approach is to rub with dry salt and then scrub with water (or vice versa). Also it can be smeared with b. linens. Generally you will find that a wine washed cheese will develop its own b. linens. If washing with just salt, it is recommend that you add b. linens to inhibit mold growth. Otherwise blue mold will likely attack early on.

During the drying and aging period, a white powder (geo) may form. This is usually left to grow as it wants, do not worry about it or try to wash it off. 

If you want an easier alpine cheese, make Mutschli which is essentially the same recipe only in the cooking stage the target temperature is 97-100 degrees, this over a period of a 15 to 30 minutes. Tolerances are very loose, and you can vary as much as you want to. This cheese is not a protected name. It is produced across the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and everyone who makes it does so differently. Alpkäse is a hard to extra hard cheese, Mutschli is semi hard to hard and is only aged about 4 months.

You can also make Ziger if you wish. This is made by heating the whey to 90 degrees Celsius (don't feel like converting that right now) and adding lactic acid. Then you strain they resulting curd out and hang it up to drip.

You can mix herd with the curd, or you can hang it up and smoke it. A form of Ziger known as Schabziger is made by adding a certain herb in with the whey before it is cooked. The resulting cheese is green.

If someone who uses pH testing would like to try and figure them out, I would appreciate also being able to list the pH targets for those who want them, and don't know how to judge the acidity of the whey by sight.

Hopefully this adaptation is useful.


« Last Edit: November 03, 2012, 03:55:26 PM by Alpkäserei »
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Offline bbracken677

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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2012, 05:56:23 AM »
Thanks! I will certainly give this a shot sometime during the upcoming weeks. My cheesemaking has suffered due to time contraints, but I will certainly be giving this a shot.

First though, I am going to digest the recipes above and see if I have questions....

Thanks again!  A cheese for you!

Offline Tiarella

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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2012, 07:18:07 AM »
Hi Alp,  thanks for the recipe..  Can you edit your recipe to clarify two points please?  What temp is the half of milk that you add the culture to?  Are you starting with chilled milk and letting it sit at room temp (if using the yogurt option)?  Warm room or cold room?
Also an idea of pressing weight would be helpful?
  And I assume it is pressed in cheesecloth?
Oh, and the mold: should it be a type with few holes?  Or lots of holes?  A photo of mold preferences is always helpful.  I'm assuming a Tomme mold?  Photos of cheeses during process would be fun to see also.   :)

By the way, I asked if you'd edit the original post rather than just reply because then it's easier for people to print out the complete recipe and it's ready to stand alone.

Thanks again for taking the time to write that out.  I'm sure I'll have other questions.......

Offline JeffHamm

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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2012, 12:49:24 PM »
Great info.  A cheese to you for this.

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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2012, 02:45:32 PM »
I'll update later, need some time to think more about a few of the questions first. But for now, here are a few things to say that will not be listed up there.

First, I don't have pictures for this specific set of directions, because like I said I make this cheese in big 40 gallon batches. This has a few differences from that. Also I don't think I have very many pictures of the process anyway. I'm usually too busy making cheese to take pictures.  ;D

As for the form, the traditional forms are hoops of wood with no holes in them. But they are also much bigger than you use here (although I suppose a Vätterli would work. This is a small form that is a tall, narrow hoop with a follower instead of an adjustable hoop with a big plate on top like we use for our alokäse, called a Järb)
What I would say is to use whatever you would use for an Emmentaler. A Tomme mould would be fine.

We press in a cloth, but for a small cheese maybe this is not so good. It would be hard to get the lines out, and you do not want lines for a washed cheese, mold will hide in there. Also you don't want lines in an Alpkäse, they are supposed to be perfect  ;D

Pressing again, I leave to your judgment. It could be comparable to what you would use for an Emmentaler or a Tomme. Though the rule we use is to try and have 8 pounds of pressing weight for every pound of cheese being pressed.
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Online Alpkäserei

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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2012, 05:20:17 PM »
edited the OP, clarifying the pre-ripening milk stage and the pressing wieght. I still left out any specifics about what kind of form. Just use what you have for any hard cheese, trying to keep in mind the height factor explained above. It is the thickness of this cheese that is most important for aging, a too thin cheese will over-dry.
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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2012, 09:14:43 PM »
Thank you!!!    :D

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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2012, 03:58:00 PM »
I added a note about keeping the cheese in a warm water bath before cooking so that it does not loose too much temperature. This could affect the activity of the culture and throw off the timing.
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Offline Tomer1

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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2012, 04:46:55 PM »
I'd love some more info on the handling and inoculation of the raw milk.
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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2012, 12:34:20 PM »
What is there that you don't understand, exactly?

Raw milk isn't some dark mysterious substance full of evil just waiting to get out or anything like that (despite what the USDA might say to the contrary) It's just milk. If your cows are healthy, your milk will be healthy. And when making cheese, you do want to use it pretty soon after milking because the bacteria balance will change over time, even under refrigeration (and even slowly when frozen). It is the most favorable fresh from the cow.

If I'm inoculating raw milk, I like to ensure that my culture is good and active before adding it. If using powder, this means I will dissolve and incubate it in some sterilized milk for at least 30 minutes. (Actually, I do the same for yogurt) This gets it going, and makes it easier for it to outdo the wild bacteria in the milk. But, honestly, this probably isn't necessary as the procedures for making my cheeses definitely favor Streptococcus and lactobacilli.
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Offline Tomer1

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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2012, 01:46:24 PM »
What is there that you don't understand, exactly?
 


-Take 1/2 of the milk aside and stir in the culture. Cover, and set apart. Do this immediately beforehand for powdered culture, or hours before if using yogurt. Milk and culture should both be at room temperature. It may be helpful to warm the yogurt slowly to incubating temperature (c. 100 degrees) before adding to milk.
-Warm the other half of the milk to 100 degrees.
-slowly add the cultured milk to the heated milk. These steps will help to replicate a traditional procedure, which affects culture development.
-heat the mixed milk back to 91 degrees.

Wy are you spliting and inoculating half of the milk, to add the culture to a warmer milk then renneting temp?   how long do you allow this cultured milk to ripen before blending it back?  or do you imedietly mix the two halfs and start the make? (do additional ripening to renneting pH and add your rennet) 
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Re: Small Batch Alpkäse
« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2012, 03:02:26 PM »
The purpose of this is to somewhat mimic a few realities of making cheese on the Alp that you are probably not going to be doing at home

-letting the evening milk, unchilled, sit around in shallow pans open to the air to ripen until morning cheesemaking time.
-incubating the whey culture over night, and adding this fully active culture directly to the morning (warm) milk

So in other words, we want some degree of pre-make ripening, but not a whole lot. We also want the culture to be able to 'wake up' a little bit.

Some of the odd steps that are out of the ordinary for normal makes are there to try and mimic what you do on the alp, in the belief that this has some affect on outcome.

Technically, the pre-ripening is not needed. It won't make or break your cheese. The idea is to let a little bit of  meso activity go on before we heat up the milk.

I like to sterilize a small portion of milk and inoculate this at least an hour before I make a small cheese at a warm temperature. I have always had good results from doing this. I find that if you just put a spoonful of yogurt into the milk, the culture isn't active enough to work like I want it to.
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