If you want to make something different, give Italian Bag Cheese a try. This cheese is made in a most unusual manner, but it tastes great all the same.
I had never heard of it until I stumbled upon it in a cheese making book titled “Homemade Cheese – Recipes for 50 Cheeses from Artisan Cheesemakers” by Janet Hurst.
Janet adapted it from a recipe by Giuseppe Licitra, Ph.D., Research Consortium dairy industry, Ragusa, Sicily! Truly Italian.
Now the only problem that I had, was that some of the instructions were missing, so having a little bit of experience under my belt, I ended up with a nice firm cheese and further adapted the recipe. Here is my version of this cheese.
(Note; The original recipe called for Mesophilic MM101 culture which is also known as Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis + Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris + Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis var. diacetylactis. I know that this is a little more technical than my posts usually are however this type of Mesophilic culture is a moderate acidifier with some gas and high diacetyl production. Diacetyl, is a fermentation compound which contributes a desirable buttery aroma to a cheese; Gas production: refers to cultures which produce CO2.
If you do have Mesophilic MM100 or MM101 on hand, then use it instead for a less acidic and more buttery flavour. I chose to use Mesophilic MO 030 (or MA) starter culture which is a moderate/high acidifier with no gas or diacetyl production, because that was all I had.)
Italian Bag Cheese
- 4 litres (1 gallon) full cream cow’s milk
- ¼ teaspoon calcium chloride mixed with ¼ cup (60ml) non chlorinated water if using homogenised milk.
- 1/8th teaspoon, (or a heaped smidgen) Mesophilic direct set culture type MM100/MM101
- ¼ teaspoon liquid rennet diluted with ¼ cup (60ml) non chlorinated water
- Fully Saturated Brine (500 gm non-ionised salt to 2 litres (2 quarts) lukewarm water). this is a very salty brine! Add a teaspoon of white vinegar to stabilise the brine.
If using homogenized milk, add calcium chloride solution.
Heat milk to 30°C (86°F).
Add the direct set culture and stir top to bottom for 30 seconds. Add the rennet solution, and stir thoroughly for one minute, with a top to bottom motion.
Cover pot, and wait for 45 minutes or until you achieve a clean break.
Cut the curds into 13 mm (½ inch) cubes. Do not stir or rest.
Line a colander with cheesecloth (double folded) or butter muslin,
and ladle the curds into the cloth. Ensure that you put a pot under the colander as you need to save the whey for later on.
Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and form a bag.
Hang the bag over the whey pot and drain for 30 minutes.
Once the 30 minutes is complete, untie the bag, where you will find a ball shape.
Carefully turn it over, top to bottom trying to encourage development of the round shape. I failed.
Re-tie the bag.
Hang and let drain for 1 hour.
After the 1 hour has elapsed, tie the bag tighter leaving no visible holes. Place the curd bag into the original pot, pour in the whey.
Bring the temperature up to 88°C (190°F), which will take about 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat and leave the curd bag in the whey until it is cool. This will take about 5 hours to get back to room temperature.
Once the whey is at room temperature, remove the curd bag from the whey and hang for two hours or until the whey has stopped dripping.
Place the cheese ball in the fully saturated brine.
Remove from the brine (keep the brine for other cheeses). You can eat this cheese fresh or let air dry for 4 hours and then refrigerate in an airtight container.
This cheese will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Now, I know that it doesn’t look like much, but this unique fresh cheese is very salty and has a tight texture a bit like mozzarella when refrigerated. It tastes fantastic with freshly picked, home-grown, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, with a basil leaf on top. It is a nice alternative to mozzarella made in the traditional way.
It is also delicious if it is heated up a little, and does melt when grilled. It would be a nice addition to a home made pizza.
I believe that if I had have used MM culture, I dare say it would taste a little different with less acidity and a more buttery flavour. When I next order some cultures, I will try to make this cheese again. Even so, it does taste good.
Who knows, I might even make a video tutorial!