Author Topic: Saffron and peppercorn romano  (Read 535 times)

Offline Geo

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Saffron and peppercorn romano
« on: December 07, 2013, 04:57:56 PM »
In some of my cheese explorations, I've come across a description of Piacentu, an Italian hard grating-style cheese, infused with saffron and black peppercorns, but eaten young rather than aged. I'd found some saffron at the back of the saffron drawer in my spice chest which had been overlooked and was getting a bit old, and some peppercorns that wanted usingso what better way to use it all up?

Googling away, I discovered that Piacentu is based on pecorino, which is based on ewe's milk. I don't have access to ewe's milk, so I decided to try a romano instead.

10 l skimmed P, non-H milk (0.1% fat, 3.5% protein)
250 ml cream
400 ml goats milk yoghurt
1/4 tsp lipase
1/2 tsp CaCl
1/4 tsp (heaped) Thermo C
1/2 tsp rennet
1 g saffron threads
1 tbsp each green, pink and black peppercorns, soaked overnight in boiling water

Warm milk to 38C.
Sprinkle cultures on milk, rehydrate 5 mins, stir 5 mins.
Add lipase, then CaCl. Stir, wait 5 mins. T = 39C
Add rennet in 1/4 cup water, add peppercorns with soaking water. Stir 3 mins.
Lid on, rest 15 mins. Check break - lovely clean break.
Cut curd into 1 cm (1/2") cubes, stir gently 5 mins, maintaining temp at 39C
Rest 10 mins and allow curd to settle. Cut with whisk to 3mm
Stir gently and increase temp to 45 over 15 minutes. Hold temp, stirring, 20 mins until curds passed texture test.
Remove whey to level of curds, hand-press curds under whey for 10 minutes until they start to mat.  pH = 6.32.
Divide curds evenly between two manchego-style baskets, lined with damp, sterilised cloth. Set follower on top.
Drain without pressure 15 mins. Add 1.25 kg weight, press 15 minutes.
Flip, press with 2.5 kg 30 minutes
Flip, press with 5 kg overnight.
Unmould, brine 6 hours.

Age at 13C (55F) and 85% humidity.

The main reason for making two cheeses is to enjoy one young and age one out. Traditional Piacentu is often eaten at two weeks of age, so I'd like to test one young and see how the other ages.

Notes on the photos: the photos with 10 litres of milk in the bain marie gives you an idea of its capacity. While it looked like most of the saffron colour was going to run out with the whey at first, these have coloured up nicely.
I suspect I pressed these a little too strongly or cooked the curds a little too long, as the cheese made from the bottom-most curds cracked while pressing. Interestingly, these cracks have more or less healed themselves as it ages in the cave.

The smell of these - and of the cloths used to make them - is *heavenly*. Similarly, don't waste the whey. I used it, without any additions other than vinegar, to make roughly 3/4 cup ricotta, and have been salting it to make ricotta salata. I hold high hopes for it.


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Offline GlennK

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Re: Saffron and peppercorn romano
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2013, 08:41:12 PM »
What an awesome looking cheese! I just got some saffron, but I never considered it as an ingredient for a cheese.  A cheese to ya!
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Offline Geo

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Re: Saffron and peppercorn romano
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2013, 04:48:02 PM »
Ha, thanks GlennK. This is, of course, highly experimental. I'll let you know the results in a few weeks!

Offline Schnecken Slayer

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Re: Saffron and peppercorn romano
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2013, 10:43:53 PM »
That looks great, I'll be interested to hear what you think of the combination of pepper with the saffron.
I made a Saffron infused Manchego last friday and I also ran over temp a fraction and have a couple of small cracks too.
-Bill
One day I will add something here...

Offline Geo

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Re: Saffron and peppercorn romano
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2013, 01:29:02 PM »
I'll report back when I try them. I did break off and try a tiny piece as I was turning the cheeses last night, The saffron was very apparent in the crumb, but not the peppercorn.

At a week in the cave, these are developing a nice little mould cover now. I'm starting a daily brushing routine.


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Offline Boofer

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Re: Saffron and peppercorn romano
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2013, 07:04:45 PM »
I'll let you know the results in a few weeks!
You mean to say "months", right?

Weeks will not allow enough time for the dying cultures to give up the goods. ???

-Boofer-
Let's ferment something!
Bread, beer, wine, cheese...it's all good.

Offline Geo

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Re: Saffron and peppercorn romano
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2013, 08:37:28 PM »
I mean both!

Even if nowadays Piacintinu tends to be consumed fresh, it can also be aged/matured over long periods of time.

I've made two cheeses with the intent of sampling a bit of the first as early as three weeks while aging the rest out a bit further, and aging the second one as far as I can bear. I'd like to see what changes happen.

Offline Geo

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Re: Saffron and peppercorn romano
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2013, 01:58:08 AM »
I cracked open one of these the other night, to see how it would taste at the three-week mark, as the Italians eat them. I just took a bit off the edge so the rest can continue aging. So far they've been in the cave in an open box, and have had one brine scrub to remove a little blue mould that was trying to invade the thin covering of white mould they'd taken on.

This is delicous. It's a firm cheese as you'd expect from a firm grating cheese, with a creamy saffron flavour, and a peppercorn hit when you come across one. I think using the green and pink peppercorns with the black worked well, as they're a bit milder. No trace of the nuttiness you'd expect from a romano yet but that's hardly surprising given the age.

Slices of this are delicious on their own, but I also wanted to see how they went with food. So I grated a little (peppercorns don't grate very well!) and compared it to a 2-year-old parmiagano reggiano. The parmegiano is acid, nutty and tingly on the palate. My romano was sweeter, moister and more fragrant but does stand up to it.

Dinner was fresh saffron-egg tagliatelle with a cavolo nero, chickpea and lemon sauce, with the parmiagano melted through it and the romano scattered on top. And may I say, yum.

Offline GlennK

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Re: Saffron and peppercorn romano
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2013, 04:55:27 AM »
My mouth is watering looking at that cheese.  Good job!  You've inspired me to give a cheese a try with saffron, but I'm not sure yet which one.  Maybe a Saffron Havarti?
Juustoa is my main cheese!

Offline Geo

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Re: Saffron and peppercorn romano
« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2013, 03:21:20 PM »
The smell is heavenly, I'd recommend doing it. This experiment is definitely a do-again for me.

One word of warning: if you make a cheese that requires brining, you're going to end up with saffron-infused brine. Which is fine if that's what you want, and also smells amazing when you boil it off to store.


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