Photo from Adobe Stock/1981 Rustic Studio
To my mom’s dismay, I have never taken much pleasure in wrapping presents. Cheeses, on the other hand, I love to wrap. Whether I’m at the counter wrapping a cheese for sale, or rewrapping a piece in my own kitchen, I take great pleasure in the process. I like to take the opportunity to feel the weight of the cheese, to look closely at it, and to think about how it tastes and how it was made. In this spirit, leaf-wrapped cheese provides the ultimate enjoyment. I suggest using a fig or chestnut leaf, but you can use most any leaf that’s large enough to envelop your cheese.
Wash the leaves with mild soap and water. Rinse thoroughly. In a small jar, combine the leaves and liquor, pressing the leaves below the surface of the liquor. Soak for at least 1 week and up to 3 weeks, refrigerated.
From Milk to Cheese: 1 week plus 27 hours to make, 7 days plus 3 to 5 weeks to age
Yield: 4 (6-ounce) cheeses
- Medium stockpot
- Thermometer with at least a 5-inch stem
- 13-inch stainless steel flat perforated ladle
- 4 cheese forms (3 to 4 inches in diameter)
- Cooling rack
- Baking sheet
- 4 chestnut or fig leaves, large enough to envelop a 4-inch round cheese
- 2 cups bourbon, dark rum, or eau-de-vie
- 1 gallon goat’s milk
- 1/4 teaspoon chevre culture (should contain a trace rennet)
- 1/8 teaspoon Penicillium candidum
- Pinch Geotrichum candidum
- Coarse non-iodized salt
Liquor pairing: Serve with the liquor used for soaking the leaf.
Photo from Adobe Stock/OSCAR
- WARM THE MILK: In a stockpot, heat the milk to 86 degrees Fahrenheit in a warm water bath. Stir the milk gently so that it warms evenly.
- CULTURE THE MILK: Sprinkle the cultures on top of the milk and mix in for 30 seconds with an up and down motion. Cover the pot and let rest for 10 to 12 hours in a warm water bath, keeping the milk a little warmer than room temperature (74 degrees Fahrenheit to 78 degrees Fahrenheit).Note: Be sure to mix in the cultures continuously for all 30 seconds, dipping the ladle to the bottom and back up to the top of the pot as you mix.
- LADLE THE CURD: The curd is ready to ladle when it has pulled away from the sides of the pot, is submerged in mostly clear whey, and leaves a clean break when a knife is inserted. Place the forms on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. Using a horizontal motion, slice through the curd with the ladle, transferring 1/2-inch-thick disks of curd to the forms.
- DRAIN THE CURD: Drain the curd for 1 hour, by which time it should be firm enough to slide out of the forms, flip, and re-form. Rotate each cheese two or three times over the next hour, for a total of 2 hours. Make sure to empty the expelled whey from the baking sheet throughout this process so it doesn’t overflow.
- SALT THE CHEESE: Remove the cheeses from the forms and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt over each cheese. Gently spread the salt by hand over the cheese if needed, but be careful not to smash or break apart the delicate fabric of the cheese. Put the cheeses back in their forms and flip upside-down every 20 minutes for 1 hour.
- DRY THE CHEESE: Remove the cheeses from the forms and air-dry, turning every hour. The cheeses are finished drying when they are no longer shiny and visibly wet, and the whey has stopped draining. Patches of white bloomy mold should begin to appear.
- AGE THE CHEESE: Move the cheeses to a cooler, high-humidity environment, around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 95% humidity, for 7 days. Flip daily and gently pat down the white bloomy mold when it grows beyond 1/4 inch. The cheeses should become covered fully in the white bloomy mold within 4 to 5 days and will initially firm up, but then soften over time. At this time you are ready to wrap your cheeses.
- WRAP THE CHEESE: Remove the fig or chestnut leaves from the liquor. Place each cheese in the middle of a chestnut leaf and fold the leaf around the cheese to completely cover it. As you fold, dip your fingers in the liquor soak and wet the edges of the leaf to seal it around the cheese. Continue to age for 3 to 5 weeks at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
- TARGET FLAVOR AND TEXTURE: The cheese is ready when pressure on the rind yields like a ripe mango. The flavor should be milky and yeasty, with a hint of minerality. For a stronger-flavored cheese, wait to open until the cheese is extremely soft to the touch, nearly melting out of the leaf.
- STORAGE: Wrap the cheeses in crystal cheese paper or wrap with wax paper and then aluminum foil. The cheeses will keep and continue aging in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Photo from Pixabay/felix_w
Also from The Beginner’s Guide to Cheesemaking:
- Cheesemaking Ingredients: Acid, Cultures, Rennet, Water, Mold and Yeast, Salt
- Havarti Recipe
- Manchego Recipe
- Beer-Washed Cheese Recipe
Reprinted with permission from The Beginner’s Guide to Cheesemaking by Elena R. Santogade and published by Rockridge Press, 2017.