Bisalta Blu – Part 1

Post by Patrick

This cheese is named after a mountain (Bisalta) in the Ligurian Alps of Italy (although it lies in the Piemonte region). It is similar to Bleu d’Auvergne and other famous French blues. For me it is a notable recipe for using both Mesophilic (mid-heat-range loving) and Thermophilic (high heat loving) bacterias, as well as Penicillium roqueforti (the mother fungus we find in all blues) and lots of agitation. Many of the pictures below correspond to the recipe that follows.

  1. We heat 100 liters of fresh cow’s milk to 65°C (Thermalization temperature). In her book “Milk,” Anne Mendelson does a good job of explaining how a light thermalization differs from the ultra-pasteurization method prevailing in the milk industry. Basically it means lower temperature for a longer period of time. It prevents the burned flavor of ultra-pasteurized milks and it leaves many more of the milk’s fats and proteins intact.
  2. Now we allow the milk to cool to between 36° and 36.5°C, the temperature the bacteria like. (Although we haven’t added them yet.)
  3. Now we add the Mesophlic bacteria (ferment) called ‘Flora-Danica’. This is a mix of Lactococus and Leuconostoc bacteria that we have cultured in milk. We add 1.5L of this yogurt-smelling milk to our milk batch. (Note: Normally we would add only 1/3 of this amount of Flora-Danica, but today we are compensating for not having two other kinds of mesophilic bacterias that play a role in the recipe.)
  4. Now we add the Penicilium roqueforti. Just 10mL dissolved in some milk is enough to inoculate our 100 liters.We wait half an hour before adding our Thermophilic ferment (Liofilizzata??)
  5. We wait another half hour, maintaining the temperature of the milk at 36°C, then add our rennet.
  6. Hypothetically the time from the moment of adding the rennet, to first cutting the curd, should be three times the time of ‘la presa.’ La presa is the appearance of initial coagulation in the milk, and today that took 13 mins (so total time should be 42 mins.) However we made our first cut after half an hour. Cheese-making is not always an exact science.
  7. We cut first with the spada (sword) into big squares, then immediately with a lira, the many fine wires of which quickly reduce the curd to the size of corn kernels or smaller.
  8. Now we agitate (stir) the curd continuously until the temperature has dropped (passively) to 32°C and the curd has reached a nice firmness (like warm, small curd cottage cheese). This whole time the curd is expelling more and more whey.
  9. With a ladle or small bowl we remove much of the expelled whey (it is probably too acidic to make ricotta from). We leave just enough so the curd is still submerged in liquid. Then we keep stirring. (Use your hands!)
  10. When the curd feels just right (and is at a pH of about 6.4), we pour it into the molds (forms) using big ladles and filtering cheesecloth. The curd quickly sets together, and we assist in this by flipping the fresh cheeses in the molds, so they distribute their weight evenly. A quick test with the pH meter shows a pH of 6.41 and a temperature of 30°C.
  11. The new cheeses are covered (put in stufatura) for a night to retain as much heat and humidity as possible.  The next morning it should reach a pH of 5 to 5.10 before being put in moist refrigeration for aging.

Hopefully a future post will explain the second part of this recipe. That will include the salting and the piercing of the cheeses, which lets in oxygen for the Penicillium blue fungus to feed on. The first piercing should happen after about a week.

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