Parmesan is familiar to most people as a sharp, hard cheese, usually shredded or grated and used as a garnish or accent. The long aging period develops the flavor.
- 2 gallons fresh milk from cows, goats, or both
- 1/4 teaspoon lipase powder, dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water and allowed to set for 20 minutes (optional)
- 1 packet direct-set thermophilic culture (use 1/8 teaspoon if using bulk packet)
- Rennet (choose one):
- 2 pounds sea salt (non-iodized) or cheese salt
- 1 gallon water
- Olive oil
- Heat the milk to 87°F. Add the thermophilic culture and lipase, and stir well. Cover and allow to ferment for 45 minutes.
- Check temperature and make sure milk is no warmer than 90°F. Stir to homogenize the milk, and slowly incorporate the diluted rennet using an up-and-down motion with your spoon to ensure that the rennet works its way through all the milk, so you can get the highest possible yield.
- Allow the cheese to set for 30 to 45 minutes at 90°F, or until the whey begins to separate from the curd. You should see a layer of mostly clear whey floating on top of the curd, and the curd should be pulling away from the sides of your pot. If you use lipase, this may take a little longer.
- Using a long knife, cut the curds into 1/4-inch cubes.
- Stir the curd with a whisk, slicing it into small pieces. The pieces should all be roughly the same size.
- Over the next 25 minutes, slowly heat the curds to 100°F, stirring frequently with your wooden spoon. As you stir, the curds will shrink.
- Slowly heat the curds to 125°F, stirring to prevent matting. The curds should be small, and if you bite one it should squeak in your teeth. When they have reached 125°F, turn off the heat and allow the curds to rest for 5 minutes.
- Pour the curds into a press lined with cheesecloth, and press at 5 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes.
- Using a fresh piece of cheesecloth, flip the cheese and press, again, at 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes.
- Repeat this process again, at 15 pounds of pressure for 2 hours, rinsing your cheesecloth in clean, cool water each time and hanging to dry.
- Finally, press at 20 pounds of pressure for 12 hours, or overnight.
- Mix two pounds of sea salt with 1 gallon of cold water to make a brine. Place the cheese in the brine and let it soak for 24 hours.
- Take the cheese out of the brine and age at 55° to 60°F for at least 8 months. (Click here for practical methods for aging cheese.) Coat the cheese daily with olive or coconut oil, and if mold appears wipe it off with a clean cloth dipped in salt water or vinegar.