Romano is good cheese to make if you are looking for a step up in difficulty in your cheese making. Not to say that it is a hard cheese to make it is still not difficult to make. The major change is that you will be switching from the lower temp Mesophilic bacteria to the higher temp Thermophilic.
- 2 gallons 2% milk (in the Willamette valley the best kind is from Lochmead farms aka Dari-mart)
- 6 ounces Heavy cream
- 1 packet direct-set thermophilic starter
- ¼ teaspoon lipase powder (gives it the flavor of goats milk)
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet (or 1/2 rennet tablet) diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
- 1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup cool water
- non-iodized salt for brining
If you do not have a local brew store that has cheese supplies you can get them online at the New England Cheesemaking supply company they also have a good selection of other cheese making recipes and kits that you can buy.
Steps to make your cheese
- If you are using lipase add it into your milk now. You can leave it out but it tastes much better with it included. For best flavor from the lipase add it to the water and let dissolve for at least 20 minutes.
- Gradually heat your milk to 88 degrees in a double boiler or a water bath. If you set it directly on a stove top you risk the chance of heating it unevenly and scorching the bottom.
- Once the milk is to temperature sprinkle the thermophilic starter over the top of the milk. Let it re-hydrate for 5 minutes before you stir. Then stir for several minutes. Cover and let sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. To keep the heat in, you can cover the pot with a kitchen towel while you wait. The starter will multiply and divide and acidify the milk slightly during this stage
- Add in your calcium chloride. Since we are using store bought milk this will allow the curds to form. If you are lucky enough to have fresh un-pasteurized milk you do not need to add any.
- Make sure you milk is still near 88 degrees. If not heat it for a short time to bring the temp back up. Now add your rennet to the milk and stir in an up and down motion. No making whirlpools in the milk. Then let sit and let the curd form for 60 minutes. If you don’t get a clean break after 60 minutes let it sit and check every 15 minutes for it. A clean break means that the curds will hold their shape after you cut them. If you do not know what this looks like there are several videos on youtube that give a great guide to telling you when they are at the right spot. As with most things the more you do it the better you will be at seeing the correct curd formation.
- Once your curd show a clean break cut into ¼ inch cubes. You can use a knife or a stainless steel whisk. I prefer a whisk since all you need is tiny curds for Romano.
- Now comes the tricky part of making Romano. You need to heat your curds up to 116 degrees over 45 minutes. For the first 30 minutes raise it 2 degrees every 5 minutes. When you get to 100 degrees you want to start raising it 1 degree a minute for 15 minutes. This is the time that you don’t leave your cheese while you are making it. If you do there is a good chance of getting off temperature very easily and changing the flavor of your cheese.
- When you hit 116 degrees turn off the heat and keep at this temp for 30 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes or so. Your curds will be very small at the end of this time. Small curds make a nice hard compact cheese.
- Now you can drain off the whey and separate out your curds. I use a cloth lined colander to get as much whey out as I can. There is no reason to pour the whey down the drain. Whey can be used in place of buttermilk in any recipe, or you can feed it to acid loving plants like blueberries and roses. And my favorite use. Feeding it as a treat to my puppy is my favorite use of it.
- Line a 2 pound mold with cheese cloth and scoop your curds into it. (your mold and liner should be ready before you finish heating your curds. Cap and press with 5 pounds for 15 minutes.
- Remove the cheese from the mold re-wrap and flip then press at 10 pounds for 30 minutes
- Re-wrap and flip and press at 20 pounds for 2 hours
- Re-wrap and flip and press at 40 pounds for 12 hours
- Add your finished cheese to your salt brine and let soak for 12 hours flipping once. Keep your brining cheese in the fridge. The standard cheese brine is 2 pounds of salt per gallon of water. You can also use the whey to make your brine. It will give a slightly different flavor then using just water. I prefer to use the whey mostly because I hate wasting any part of the milk.
- Remove the cheese from the brine and pat dry. Then place on your drying mat and let it dry for 2-3 days or until it is dry to the touch. Then move it to your cheese fridge and allow it to form a rind while it ages. Turn it over frequently and check for mold often. If you see any mold form on the outside of your cheese just take a cloth and dip in vinegar and wipe it off. The molds that grow on cheese are easily killed and won’t harm you even if you eat them. For all of my cheese aging I use a wine fridge with the rack pulled out. It makes it easier to keep the temp at the right spot.
- At two months take a couple teaspoons of olive oil and wipe it over the rind of your cheese. This will prevent your cheese from drying out too much. Then continue to age for another 3-10 months.
History of Pecorino Romano cheese:
Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty Italian cheese, often used for grating, made out of sheep milk (the Italian word pecora, from which the name derives, means sheep). Pecorino Romano was produced in Latium up to 1884 when, due to the prohibition issued by the city council of salting the cheese inside their shops in Rome, many producers moved to the island of Sardinia. It is produced exclusively from the milk of sheep raised on the plains of Lazio and in Sardinia. Most of the cheese is now produced on the island, especially in Gavoi.
Pecorino Romano was a staple in the diet for the legionaries of ancient Rome. Today, it is still made according to the original recipe and is one of Italy’s oldest cheeses. Production was first described by Latin authors like Varro and Pliny the Elder about 2,000 years ago. It was first created in the countryside around Rome. Pecorino Romano cheese is used mostly in Central and Southern Italy.