Archive for the 'provolone' Category

06
Aug
10

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! – Part 3


[My good friend, Eran Elhalal, gives us the third and last part of his Intro to Cheese.

Eran Elhalal is a chef/Entrepreneur working in Manhattan. An Honors Graduate of the  Culinary Institute of America,  Eran was Executive Chef of two Manhattan restaurants in the past few years and consulted several others. He began educating customers about food and wine pairing and cheese in 2007 while working as the Chef at UES’s BarVespa.

These days, Eran talks about food and wine pairing as the chef for the panel of Meetup, a wine club, dedicated to introduce and educate the American public about Israeli wines. Photos: courtesy of Eran Elhalal.

Not every type of cheese described below is, so far, made for the kosher consumer. That situation, however is changing fast as various distributors (here and here) and manufacturers are constantly introducing new and delicious cheeses into the kosher market. CS]

“How can you be expected to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?”
Charles de Gaulle

Trying to Categorize Cheeses

There is no one set of rules by which to categorize the world’s cheeses. After thousands of years of cheese-making , we still are unable to agree on one set of rules, and here is why:

  • Some factors are very difficult to quantify – for example the classification relying on smell. Detection and rating vary from person to person depending on how accute their sense of smell is. No one category can address all types and nuances. For example, Classification relying on rind alone, puts hundreds of cheeses with no rind in the same category.
  • Another example is classification by aging, it would put a Danish blue cheese and a Farmhouse Brie in the same category. Traveling between different categories- Cheese is a living thing. Every cheese is released with a certain fat content and certain water content. As the cheese ages these percentages change due to water evaporation. Hence, the same triple creamed cheese , tastes much more pungent a month after you bought it! Moreover, a cheese that was classified as Semi-hard like a dutch Gouda will turn rock hard as it ages.

Knowing this, we can now learn to pickout, describe and appreciate cheeses using the more common categories for classification:

Queso Manchego - Spanish sheep's milk cheese, has a wonderful and unique bite to it

 

 

Texture

Classification determined by water content:

  • Very soft – 80 % water, spoonable, includes most fresh cheeses like Cottage cheese, Chèvre, Labane.
  • Soft – 50 %-70% water, spreadable, includes the double and triple creamed cheeses (Brie, Camembert, Robiola, Taleggio, Colummiers…), but also some Feta cheeses (cow’s milk mainly).
  • Semihard – 40%-50% water, sliceable, includes Edam, Gouda, Manchego.
  • Hard – 30%-50% water, very firm and dense, includes Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, Piave, Ossau, Iraty, Mimolette
  • Blue -40%-50% water, a classification within the semi hard group of cheeses, may be sliceable, spreadable or crumbly, includes all blue veined cheeses, like; Valdeon, Cabrales, Roquefort, Gorgonzola

 

 

Noordhollander Gouda - Yes, there are some delicious kosher variations of this cheese

 

Aging

Length of aging prior to release:

  • Fresh – Un-aged, produced and released, include Cottage cheese, Cream cheese, Chèvre.
  • Brief Molding period – 2 weeks-10 weeks, produced and allowed to take shape in a mold ( tub or basket), or for the rind to bloom, includes Feta, almost all blue cheeses and bloomy rind cheeses (Grayson, Taleggio, Brie…).
  • Aged – Anywhere between 2 months and 5 years, depending on the cheese, produced and allowed to mature until the cheesemaker deems it fully aged and flavored, includes all hard and semi hard cheeses,like; Parmigiano Reggiano, Idiazabal, Pecorino, Cheddar, Gouda

Type of Milk

Classification by what animal produces the milk:

The most common are Cow, Goat and Sheep (ewe), but there are also cheeses made with a mix of milk from different animals, and even cheeses from Buffalo, Moose, Camel or Yak’s milk.

 

Taleggio

 

Smell

Classification by degree of pungency:

A very difficult classification,works mainly for bloomy rind cheeses like – Taleggio, Robiola, Camembert, Brie

Methods of cheese-making

Classification by main cheesemaking traditional methods:

  • Fresh Cheese – Unaged or matured, includes some slightly pressed cheeses(Feta),whey based cheeses that are only strained (Urda, Ricotta) and the spoonable, Cottage, Cream cheese, Chèvre.
  • Pasta Filata Cheese – The curds are cooked, then streched and folded repeatedly before molding or shaping. The cheese is then ready to eat or may be ripened further and even smoked (Mozzarella, Provolone, Paneer, Kashkaval).
  • Unpressed Ripened Cheese – The curds are minimally cut and allowed to drain . They are then ripened with mold or bacteria on the cheese surface (Camembert, Brie, Taleggio…) or using a starter culture that is applied to the surface or inoculated into the cheese (Stilton).
  • Pressed and Ripened Cheese – The curds are pressed before ripening. Examples: Manchego, Idiazabal, Cheddar.
  • Cooked, pressed and ripened – The curds are cooked in whey, then milled, molded and pressed. These cheeses are aged for up to 5 years (Parmigiano Reggiano, Piave, GoudaEdam, Emmental…).
  • Processed – After the initial cheesemaking process is complete (see 2nd part of this series), more milk and emulsifying salts are added, food coloring and preservatives. This yields a very consistent product, yet rather unhealthy. Unfortunately, these cheeses, sold in blocks, slices, tubes and even sprays are the most commonly consumed types in the US. (American cheese, Kraft singles, Cheez Whiz ….and other such varieties of poor excuses for cheese!)

Rind

 

 

Dutch Gouda -Uses an artificial wax rind, to lock in moisture and deepen the flavor as the cheese ages

 

Classification by type of rind:

The rind of the cheese controls the rate of water evaporation from the cheese, oxidation of the surface and escape of gases from within.

  • No rind – The cheese is produced and packaged or at most strained, salted and packed. Includes all fresh cheeses like: Ricotta, Urda, Cream cheese, Feta
  • White mold rind – The mold grows on the surface and is edible. The rind is sometimes brushed away a number of times throughout ripening, so the cheese will develop a thicker rind. The mold is white at first but as the cheese ages it darkens. Includes: Camembert, Brie, Robiola Bosina.
  • Washed rind – the rind is washed with alcohol, usually Marc (Grape pomace Brandy) or wine. The alcohol dries the surface of the cheese and the white bloomy mold turns pinkish/Orange. The rind is moist and a has a slightly grainy mouthfeel, thus it is not usually eaten. Includes Taleggio, Robiola Pineta, Grayson, Pont I’Eveque.
  • Natural dry rind – The rind is in fact the dry outer surface of the cheese. The rind can be brushed, scraped, oiled or wrapped in cloth depending on the desired result. The rind is inedible, types include: Parmigiano Reggiano, Cheddar, Piave
  • Organic rind – Leaves, spices and herbs applied to the surface of the cheese after its made. The reason is to impart flavor and protect from insects traditionally (Fleur de Maquis, Corsican ewe’s milk cheese rolled in herbs & Juniper berries, or Majorero Pimenton – rolled in smoked pepper). another reason is to lock in moisture. Examples include: Valdeon, wrapped in sycamore leaves; Banon, tied in chestnut leaves and tied with raffia.
  • Artificial rinds – Added after the cheese is made. Rind is generally inedible. Includes Gouda, Edam (wax rind), Cheddar (plastic) and ash edible in St. Maure (for example).

So… these are just the main categories. When I describe a cheese, I try to use all the categories that apply most, focusing on the ones that characterize the paricular cheese category more than others.

One last example. Morbier

 

 

Morbier cheese

 

Origin: Comte region, North East France
Milk: Raw or Pasteurized Cow’s milk.
Texture: Semi hard (40 %-50% water), sliceable.
Method of cheese-making: Pressed and ripened,with a layer of ash running through the center.
Smell: mild pungent
Rind: Natural dry rind,brushed for firmness.
Aging; 2-3 months
Fat content: 45 %
Interesting facts: This cheese was traditionally made for consumption by the cheesemakers themselves. Leftover curds were put in a tub, then covered with ash to repel insects, while waiting for additional leftover curds from the evening or the next day.

Eran Elhalal

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14
Jul
10

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! – Part 2


[Eran Elhalal is a chef/Entrepreneur working in Manhattan. An Honors Graduate of the  Culinary Institute of America,  Eran was Executive Chef of two Manhattan restaurants in the past few years and consulted several others. He began educating customers about food and wine pairing and cheese in 2007 while working as the Chef at UES’s BarVespa.

These days, Eran talks about food and wine pairing as the chef for the panel of Meetup, a wine club, dedicated to introduce and educate the American public about Israeli wines. Photos: courtesy of Eran Elhalal. CS]

“Well, and what’s Cheese? Corpse of Milk!” (James Joyce)

The Cheese Series- Second Chapter


How cheeses are made

There are countless nuances to Cheese making, hence, Different countries produce different cheeses , which reflect the country’s Terroir , traditions and even mentality. Each one of the steps in the process is crucial to the end result ,the way the curds are cut will determine the texture of the cheese, the method and quantities of salting will affect aging or ripening.

The first Two steps of cheese making  however , are common to all cheeses. Essentially, cheese is made by extracting the water and whey from milk and allowing the remaining milk solids ( Curds ) to spoil in a controlled environment, monitoring bacterial growth, expansion of molds throughout the cheese and so on…

First step: Collecting and Preparing the milk

Artisanal cheese makers collect the raw milk from their own farm or nearby farms. That is the traditional way and the best one. Travel time , agitation , temperature and cleanliness of the transport vats are highly important factors to the resulting cheese. Much like wine proximity is crucial. The shortest the time between milking the animal and starting the cheese making process, the better.

A word on : Pasteurization

Not all cheeses are made from pasteurized milk, but for the majority of modern cheeses, this is when the process is applied. The milk is typically heated to a temperature of 160o F for 15 seconds or to a temperature of 114oF and held for 30 minutes. Un-pasteurized cheeses are more flavorful because the heat inactivates natural enzymes in the milk that help develop the final flavor of the cheese . Pasteurization also slows down the action of the Rennet , thus prolonging the ripening/aging step in achieving full texture and flavor. On the other hand, pasteurizing makes the flavor of milk homogenous, which large volume producers seek to maintain consistency of flavor from different batches of milk.

I say, that in the sense of depth of flavor and uniqueness, the difference between cheeses from un-pasteurized milk to those from pasteurized milk is the same as the difference between wines which are non-kosher or kosher to wines that are Mevushal (Hebrew for: cooked).

http://aftercheese.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/swiss-cheesemaking1.jpg?w=539&h=405

Second step: Curdling

Raw milk will actually sour and curdle on its own , but this natural method is inconsistent. Pasteurized milk does not sour this way ,so nowadays all cheeses are made by introducing an acid like lemon juice (Citric acid) , or vinegar, but in most cases a starter culture of special Bacteria is used to change milk sugars (lactose ) into lactic acid. The increased acidity denatures the milk protein (Casein), so it separates from the milk water into solid curds when a coagulating agent  (Rennet) is introduced. The protein molecules then lump together to a soft gel. The curds are allowed to settle at a temperature of 70oF-95oF for 30 minutes-120 minutes, depending on the type of cheese being made. Low tempo yield soft curds for soft cheeses and high tempo yields hard rubbery curds used to produce semi hard and hard cheeses.

Third step: Concentrating and processing the curds

First the curds are cut to release the whey . The method applied here will determine the texture and moisture content of the cheese. Softer cheeses are made by minimal cutting of curds and piling them up to drain naturally . Harder cheeses are cut horizontally and vertically to very fine pieces , thus releasing much more moisture that results in a drier, harder cheese.

Some hard cheeses are then heated to temperatures in the range of 100 °F–130 °F. This forces more whey from the cut curd. It also changes the taste of the finished cheese, affecting both the bacterial culture and the milk chemistry. Cheeses that are heated to the higher temperatures are usually made with thermophilic starter bacteria which survive this step—either lactobacilli or streptococci.

Salt has a number of roles in cheese besides adding a salty flavor. It preserves cheese from spoiling, draws moisture from the curd, and firms up a cheese’s texture in reaction to contact with the denatured proteins. Some cheeses are salted from the outside with dry salt or brine washes. Most cheeses have the salt mixed directly into the curds. Salting also slows down the starter bacteria culture, thus contolling the rate of ripening/Aging.

Processing methods:

Cheddaring: The cut curd is repeatedly piled up, pushing more moisture away. The curd is also milled for a long period of time, taking the sharp edges off the cut curd pieces and influencing the final product’s texture. (Hence- Cheddar)

Stretching: The curd is stretched and kneaded in hot water, developing a stringy, fibrous body.(For example: Mozzarella , Provolone , Kashkaval).

Washing: The curd is washed in warm water, lowering its acidity and making for a milder-tasting cheese. ( Examples: Gouda,Edam)

Whey based cheeses: Once the whey has been drained,it can be used to make some cheeses ,without the use of curds.(Ricotta,Urda).

Fourth step : Molding

Most cheeses achieve their final shape when the curds are pressed into a mold or form. The harder the cheese, the more pressure is applied. The pressure drives out moisture ,the molds are designed to allow water to escape , and unifies the curds into a single solid body.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_YJWbOrG-e-E/S0pxGl9ultI/AAAAAAAABDA/baMEKCzbi0k/Cheese%20Aging,%20Molise%202.jpg

Final step :Ripening/ Aging

Ripening/ Aging is the stage where enzymes and microbes change the chemical composition of the cheese from complex organic molecules to simple ones and transform the cheese’s  texture and intensity of flavor. Temperature and humidity are monitored carefully. Some traditional cheese are aged only in near caves which contain unique molds and yeast which result in a one of a kind cheese. More often, cultures are used, giving more consistent results and putting fewer constraints on the environment where the cheese ages. These cheeses include soft ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales, Stilton, and washed rind cheeses such as Taleggio, Grayson.Soft Cheeses- like Brie, Camembert, ripen quickly and at a lower tempo than hard cheeses. Soft cheeses ripen from the outside in. It is all about controlled spoilage here. Bacteria multiplying too quickly results in uneven maturation of the cheese. High humidity ( usually 80%-95%)is crucial to a moist surface in cheese. The ripening/aging period (called Affinage in French) can last from days to several years. This transformation is largely a result of the breakdown of casein proteins and milkfat into a complex mix of amino acids,amines and fatty acids.

http://www.thomaswalshphotographer.com/_images/Cuisine%20Web%20Photos/Comte-Cheese-Aging.jpg

Eran Elhalal

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Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!




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