Have you ever heard of Nerina? This Italian soft goat cheese really caught my attention the first time I had it. Nerina’s striking appearance is only rivaled by it’s amazing flavor. This cheese is bright, creamy, citrusy (more like lemony), slightly tangy, a little musky, and mild for a goat cheese. The rind, which is made up of ash and a bloomy mold carries a beautiful floral, sweet, slightly nutty mushroom flavor with a firmer texture. It is truly a delicious cheese that leaves quite a lasting impression.
Today we are going to be making a cheese in a very similar style to Nerina. This will be a lactic-set curd rather than a rennet set curd. What this means is that we want our mesophilic culture to do most of the heavy lifting. We will be adding a few drops of rennet but that’s only to assist the culture along the way. With lactic set curds we are trying to acidify (or ferment) our milk very slowly. The slower the better. The longer it takes for our milk to coagulate the more cohesive our curds will be. This means that they will retain more moisture during the draining process. Our goal ripening/coagulation time should be 16-24 hours. This can be controlled by how much culture you add in the beginning and how warm your room is. If you notice that you milk if fermenting faster than it should, you can either reduce the amount of culture that you add (for the next time) or place the milk in a cooler environment. Our ideal temperature for ripening our milk is 68f-72f.
Lets cover a few basics
There are a few things that we need to understand about cheese making. First and foremost cleanliness needs to be a top priority. Sanitize all of your equipment by either boiling it in water for 20 minutes or spraying with a liquid sanitizer, like Iodophor. Iodophor is great because you only need a little bit and it only takes 3 minutes for it to do it’s job. After 3 minutes your items are sanitized and you are ready to start making cheese.
As far as goat milk goes, try and get the best quality that you can get for cheese making. The better the goat milk the better your cheese will turn out. Stay away from ultra pasteurized milk or ultra high temp processed (UHT) milk. These options do not work for cheese making.
Raw goat milk produces some amazing cheese so if you choose to use raw milk make sure it comes from a reputable place with healthy livestock. If you use raw goat milk to make this cheese you DONOT need to add calcium chloride to the recipe. Calcium chloride is added to replenish the calcium in milk that’s been pasteurized. Also, if you use raw goat milk you can reduce the amount of culture by 25%.
Time and temperature play an important role in cheese making. Each cheese has it’s own parameters that must be strictly followed. For that reason I suggest getting a high quality kitchen thermometer that you can monitor the milk’s temperature. I use a hand help thermometer called MK4 Thermapen. It’s accurate, reliable, and keeps me on track when making cheese. You will see thermometers in pretty much every cheese making video recipe I post. It’s that important.
In addition to temperature, time is critically important when it comes to cheese making. Whether you are ripening a culture, setting, cooking the curds, or draining the cheese time is at the heart of each one of those steps. The timer I use is from ThermoWorks as well (Extra BIG and LOUD Timer) and It keeps me on task through the entire process.
When it comes to making this cheese the process is relatively easy (comparatively speaking). For starters you’ll be heating your milk up to 88f-90f. Add the mesophilic culture, molds, calcium chloride, rennet drops, and stir. Put a lid on your container and let it sit for 16-24 hours till your whey reaches a ph of 4.5-4.6. I use a pH meter from Apera Instruments called the PH60S-Z to test the ph and it’s completely improved the way I make cheese. It literally takes all of the guess work out of cheese making. In this video we only use this ph meter once, but in many of the advanced cheeses you’ll see how critical it is to know the ph of your cheese at each stage. If you don’t have a ph meter for this cheese that’s ok. Just wait the amount of time recommended (16-24 hours) and as soon as you get a clean break in your curd mass you can begin to ladle the curds into your cheese molds. The only downside is that you won’t know the ph of your milk, so if it’s a little tangier than you like it’s because the milk over acidified a bit..
Why is this cheese black and white?
Nerina is known for it’s striking appearance. This appearance is made possible by ash and mold. Ash is a very interesting ingredient in cheese making. Sometimes it’s there for aesthetics and other times its there for functionality. The ash used in this cheese stabilizes the ph of the surface, creating a thin rind. This provides a better surface for our molds to grow and with the addition of ash our added mold flora will tend to grow faster than normal. The molds in question are penicillium Candidum and geotrichum Candidum. These two molds works great together as the g. candidum sets the stage by forming a bloomy rind on the surface of the cheese allowing the p. candidum to take hold and grow over it. This helps your mold stick to the cheese better.
Finally, we get down to the cheese cave. This cheese will require special temperature and humidity for it to turn out well. For most of us who want to make cheese we will need some sort of a cheese cave. If you are fortunate enough to have a cellar or basement where the temperature ranges from 50f-62f with a 80%-85% humidity then you’ve got nothing to worry about. I had to build my cheese cave so if you want to see how I did it you can check out the post: Building a salami chamber/cheese cave.
One last thing to mention before we make cheese
Use the recipe I have below as a guide line. If you don’t have the mesophilic culture I mentioned that’s ok. You can use any mesophilic culture you have (buttermilk, kefir, some other random culture, etc.). It’s important to know that unlike most recipes when it comes to cheese making, the amount of culture and mold that’s added doesn’t multiply like some of the other ingredients. Take good notes and if you have any questions be sure to let me know..
Here are a few things you might find useful when making this cheese
- Apera Instruments pH Meter (PH60S-Z)
- Iodophor Sanitizer
- DOT External Thermometer
- MK4 Thermapen
- Extra BIG and LOUD Kitchen Timer/Alarm
- Calcium Chloride
- Cheese Salt
- 2 ply cheese wraps
- Food Ash (Activated Charcoal)
- Ash dispensor (optional)
- Mini Measuring Spoons
- Cheese Cloth
- Stainless Steel Cheese Skimmer
- MM-100 Mesophilic Culture
- Penicillium Candidum (white mold for surface)
- Geotrichum Candidum (white mold for surface – use with p. candidum)
- 8oz Cheese Mold (perfect for this recipe)
- 16oz cheese mold (for a larger version)
- Bamboo Cheese Mat
Enjoy the video and the recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask away. If you make this at home I’d love to hear about how it came out!!
If you want to see the different things that we use in operation our be sure to check out our new Amazon Store.