There has been a lot of chatter about Reblochon around here ranging from great info to misguided advice. While I haven't had much time for the forum lately, I decided to start this thread with this super-long
post in the hope that it would be helpful to people (as Linuxboy's Tomme thread helped so many). I have tried many Reblochon formulas over the years with mixed results. It wasn't until I discussed Reblochon with actual makers and came across the official recipe and Reblochon AOC standards where I felt "I got it". It opened a whole door of technique and affinage and brought me nothing but superior consistent results, improving all my washed rind -as well as other cheeses. The info below is not what you find in most home cheesemaking books. Not only is the recipe way different, but the results are night and day.
So why is Reblochon so important for cheesemakers to learn?
Reblochon is a gateway for mastering washed-rind cheeses. It's just like learning Camembert
to master bloomy cheeses, practicing Crottin/Chaource
to master aged lactic cheeses, or working on Tomme
to master semi-hard cheeses. Moreover, it will elevate anyone's affinage and cheesemaking skills, no matter what cheese one makes.General good-to-know geeky-fun stuff:
Most washed-rind types originate from Trappist monks in European monasteries, from a time period where washing the cheese was part of a pray-work regiment. These abbeys were financially dependent on the production and trade of cheese and beer. Flavors and aromas were targeted to stand up to the Trappist beers and bitters (that's how beer/liqueur rind wash came about). Reblochon however has its origins in 14th century farming. As a matter of fact, the name comes from old Savoyard language. The word for milking was "bloche" because of the sound it makes when the stream from the pinched udder hits the bucket. Re-bloche is to re-milk, so Reblochon means something like "the re-milker", "re-milked", "to milk again" or really "to pinch the udder again".
- One version claims that French farmers would milk their cows partially and wait for the tax men to count the yield. When the tax men left, the farmers returned to the cow and re-milked it, using this leftover to make this small cheese -for family consumption and to trading commodities with neighbors.
- Another version puts the origin of the name in a commerce deal between the land-owning abbeys and the farmers who worked on it. The cheeses from the first milking of the day were given to the abbeys. The second milking was for the farmer.
No matter which version you believe in, both of them tell us that Reblochon is made from milk of second milking. That is important because the second milking is far richer in fat, so this fatty little cheese has 45% fat in dry matter. This isn't just a matter of supple texture and cholesterol count; it also means more lipolytic activity (breakdown of fat lipids = flavor, spiciness). Lastly, Geotrichum Candidum is a big fan of fat -hence a nice Geo dusting on these beauties. It's a perfect storm! Technical / sensory:
Technically speaking, this is considered a MIXED RIND cheese. Reblochon is not bright red but rather a pale orange, covered with a generous dusting of late-blooming Geo. Perhaps the farmer-style affinage enabled the Geo to grow back on the wheels while they were out, working the fields? (Other famous French mixed-rinds includes Saint Nectaire
and Pont l'Évêque
). This cheese is mild. Not too bright colored, not too pungent or piquant. One of those all-around versatile cheeses that work in cooking, casual sandwich, or at a fancy cheese plate. While mild and pale, good Reblochon should boast a fantastic and complex depth of flavors and aromas. After all, it is ALWAYS made with raw milk.
Being a raw-milk cheese younger than 60-days renders it illegal for sale in many countries, including the US. Sadly, trying to make it by looking at photos without ever tasting it is difficult and a bit of a guesswork. OK, LET'S GET OUR HANDS DIRTY NOW...
Reblochon pointers and useful tips:
FINALLY, THE RECIPE! 19 STEPS TO PERFECT REBLOCHON:
- Use raw milk. If you can't get any, I suggest to get non-homogenized, gently-pasteurized milk from grass-fed cows and pre-inoculate it for 24 hours to get some raw elements back into it.
- Reblochon uses farmstead culture (thermo+meso mix).
- Milk temp is about 94°F/35°C - upper meso / lower thermo
- Pre-rennet time could be long but post-rennet coagulation (floc multiplier) very short
- Form factor is essential as with all surface ripened cheese. Too wide or tall - it may not ripen through the center. Too thin - it will over-ripen prematurely. Correct shape enables simultaneous development of texture and flavor towards the same target at the same speed
- Classic Reblochon mould should measure Ø5½”/Ø135mm diameter and 2½”/60mm height. It's a low flow mould, meaning it has a small amount of holes so whey escapes slowly during pressing. (It looks like a smaller lighter-weight version Tomme mould)
- Pressed at medium weight. Stacking is not enough. Heavy weight is too much
- Early acidification can ruin this cheese. Press, drain and salt at low temp room or cave to prevent it
- Initial few days spent in a yeast room to develop Geo. This isn't drying; we are talking 60°F-64°F/15°C-18°C at 95% RH even after salting!
- Remember to make the morge (wash solution) in advance o the very first wash. Consider it takes a day to inoculate it so do it a couple of days after the cheese has been salted
- As soon as the cheese displays mocasse (Geo slime), it must go through its first wash.
- Immediately following initial wash, cheese must go into the cave at 48°-54°F/8°C-12°C. The low temperature slows down lactic acid buildup which was encouraged during yeasting period
- Reblochon is best aged on spruce boards at high humidity
- Wash only the side that is NOT going to be in contact with the wooden board until the next turning of the cheese
- Wash/turn regiment takes 2 weeks, at which point cheese should have elastic pale orange crust. The paste is softer and corners and angles have become round. Major affinage is now complete and no more washes should take place, however the cheese is not yet ready to eat! It must now be wrapped and refrigerated for 2-4 more weeks. This enable flavors, textures and aroma to mature without the ill-effects of acidification or ammonia buildup
- Wrapping is done in cold environment to prevent the rind from "sweating" with condensation. If you take Reblochon out of a 50°F/11°C cave to wrap it in a 75°F/24°C room, the wrap stick to the rind (which you will find out only weeks later when you open the cheese). Typically, Reblochon is wrapped with a spruce disc to help with that. A good hack for the home cheesemaker is to use the bottom of a poplar Camembert box.
- Good wrapping paper can make of break this cheese. Let is breathe without drying. A good home-made hack for that is to use wax paper and wrap it again with a perforated cellophane bag. Formaticum may suffocate it.
- Don't believe anything I say, trust your judgment. There are several plays on this which are considered still AOC-acceptable Reblochons. In some, yeasting period is longer, cave temperatures may differ or pH level are different. Start with this and modify it based on your personal results. This recipe however, is rock solid and used in production of the real thing.
(standardized for 4 Gallons. Approximate yield: 4-5 wheels of 1Lb./450g each).
- Heat up 4 gallon fresh row cow's milk to 94°F / 34°C. If no such milk is available to you, use creamline (non-homogenized) milk but pre-inoculate it 24-36 hours in advance while it is cold and refrigerate until cheesemaking time (6.65pH, more if pasteurized)
- Culture with:
- 1/8 tsp PLA (you can use 1/4 tsp if you want more activity and have a 4-6 gal batch.) Alternatively, you can mix equal amounts of KL71 or R2R with SR3 and Geo15.
- 1/8 tsp MY800 (or Thermo B)
- 1/8 tsp Flora-Danica (Or Probat 222, or Mesophilic Aromatic B, AKA "Aroma B")
- If you are using pasteurized milk (not recommended), you would want to add your ½ tsp CalCl2 dilution in ⅓ cup of water right now.
- Ripen to 6.55pH (+/-0.05pH). Watch this stage carefully as pH drop may not occur for a while and then occur very suddenly. This could take as little as 30 minutes in raw milk and as long as 3-5 hours in pasteurized milk. Assure that temp does not drop
- Add 1 tsp calf rennet, (diluted in ½ cup water)
- Wait for flocculation. Add x1.5 flocculation time to time-passed (in other words, x2.5 floc multiplier). For example, if flocculation occurs at the 14th minute, set your timer to alert you to cut the curd in 14x1.5 = 21 more minutes. That's 35 minutes rennet-to-cutting total.
- Cut curd at ¾"/2cm. Let settle 5 min. Stir gently with a whisk until curd has been cut to ¼"/7mm pieces. Settle 5 min.
- Stir gently to help the curd firm up and release whey. A proper speed is one where you can just see the curd on the surface. Within 5-15 minutes curd should be ready. Stop before the curd turns dry and grows "skin". It should be springy and mat in your fist easily. Remember to maintain temperature. Let rest for 5 minutes to allow curds to settle on the bottom
- Remove (siphon or scoop out) enough whey from the top until it levels approx 1"/2.5cm above the curd (about 1/3 of the volume). At this point acidity should measure 6.45pH (+/-0.05pH)
- Mould the cheese by dipping, scooping or pouring curd with whey (quick and wet) to moulds. Work in rotation until all curd has been used up. Wait for whey to drain if all your molds are full prematurely and top off with more curd
- Press (use followers) at 3lbs./1500g per mould. If you are not using purpose-made Reblochon mould, calculate 0.2 psi (15g/cm²) pressure.
- Flip within 30 minutes. Flip again 60 min later. After another 90 minutes flip again. At approx 4 hours (from moulding), acidity should be at 5.7pH
- De-Press immediately and move the cheese (still in its molds) to 62°F/16°C "yeasting" room for 12-24 hours, until acidity reaches 5.4-5.5pH
- De-mould + Salt – The target here is 1.5% so use 1.8% dry salt by weight (as we assume some salt gets lost in the process). Alternatively, cheese can be dropped in cool saturated brine at 45min. per side. Dry-salting is typical of farmstead Reblochon however, and less fussy for small batches
- Dry in yeasting conditions of 62°F/16°C and 95% humidity. Turn daily.
- Prepare morge for wash 12-24 hours in advance: 5-6%% salt brine with a pinch of PLA, inoculated for 12 hours at room temp, then moved to refrigerator.
- Wash first time as soon as Geo blooms steadily on the surface (~4th day or so). Use sanitized cotton rag (not too soft but not too abrasive, just in the middle. Flour sack, cheesecloth, cotton diaper are good examples). Sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt on the surface. This will create microscopic scratches, keep the geo in check and encourage growth of strong rind). Leave the cheese moist, -not toweled dry, not dripping wet.
- Age the cheese; move it IMMEDIATELY to the cave at 50°F/11°C and 95% RH. Place the cheese on spruce boards if you can get some (avoid other woods due to aroma and tanins. Also avoid treated wood. Only use raw wood and only wash it with boiling water and coarse salt). Turn the cheese daily. Wash every two days in the first week and twice in the second week.
- Wrap and refrigerate at 39°F/4°C. Acidity have recovered now back to 5.6pH or so. Cheese has softened and the rind is now pale orange look with white dusting of Geo. It is beginning to smell familiar... While wash and turn regiments are now complete, cheese is not ready yet. It needs this cold-aging.
- Taste no less than a week or two later. Cheese is now developing its deep texture, flavor and aromatic properties. It will taste totally different every couple of weeks now. You can cold-age it now even 45 days if you wish; just make sure it doesn't suffocate and ammoniate. Use cooler temperature for longer aging and increase the ratio of MY800 vs. Flora Danica for such makes. Be on top of your affinage!
Post any photos, questions and troubleshooting here!