How Asiago Cheese is Made: The Traditional Way

Asiago cheese is a PDO cheese that is made in the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige regions of Italy. The cheese is named for the town of Asiago, which is located in the province of Vicenza.

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The authentic PDO Asiago is a swiss-style alpine cheese, where it’s produced 2000 ft above sea level.

Asiago cheese is made from cow’s milk, and it has a semi-hard texture and a nutty flavor. In this blog post, we will take a look at how Asiago cheese is made using the traditional PDO method.

Milk Preparation

Starting from the milk, asiago uses the raw cow’s milk to arrive within half an hour from the first and second milkings.

There are mainly two types of Asiago – Pressed Asiago and Asiago d’Allevo. For Pressed Asiago, fresh whole milk is used. Whereas Asiago d’Allevo uses a mixture of whole milk and skimmed milk. According to CLAL, producers may just use partially skimmed milk.

The difference is the percentage of milkfat in the final product. The milk is not pasteurized or thermalized.

Curd Formation

The milk is then transferred to a boiler tank and heated to a temperature of about 33-37°C (or 95-99°F). The animal rennet and starter culture are added. This is to make sure for enzymes in rennet to start coagulating milk at its optimal temperature, while not hot enough to skill the bacteria culture or denature the proteins.

At this stage, starter cultures acidified the milk and lowered the pH (1).

The milk is put to rest for about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, the temperature is gradually increased up to about 45-49 °C (or 113-120°F)

At this stage, the curd should be formed nicely and have the desired “clean break”. A large whisk is used to stir and break the curd into the granules.

Draining, Molding, and Shaping

Cheesecloth is used to scoop and wrap around the curd mass from the boiler tank. The cheesecloth helps the whey to drain properly. The curd is then portioned down into the different sizes of the molds and left to rest for about 3-5 hours on a draining table. Meanwhile, the cheese is turned several times.

This is when cheesemakers would label the cheese’s production batch number, date, and DOP logo.

A little different here for the Pressed Asiago – the curd from the boilers is spread out on a draining table. The curd is then dry-salted and mixed well. The curd is then molded, labeled, and pressed using heavy objects, or more commonly the hydraulic press today, for about four hours.

Salting and Cooling

After drained and molded, the cheese is surface salted (or socked under 16-19% salinity of brined water) and left in the cooling room at 10-15 °C (or 50-59°F) for 48 hours. The cheese wheel is turned several times.

After that, both types of Asiago will immerse in a brine bath for 2-6 days depending on the size and weight of the cheese.

Maturation

Also called the aging process. After the brine bath, the asiago cheese will be transferred to the aging room to ripe at a temperature of 11-14 °C (or 52-57°F) with room humidity of 80-85%.

Pressed Asiago typically ripens for 20-40 days, while Asiago d’Allevo for a minimum of 60 days up to 2 years.

The Pressed Asiago will have larger holes, a softer texture, and a sweeter flavor than the Asiago d’Allevo. The Asiago d’Allevo will have smaller holes and a harder/drier crumbly texture.

Reference:

  1. http://www.latteriavilla.it/ciclo-produttivo/?lang=en
  2. https://www.clal.it/downloads/schede/DOP-Asiago_Cheese.pdf
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asiago_cheese

FAQs

What asiago cheese has black skin?

The black skin is the wax coating for asiago cheese. It is edible and helps to protect the cheese from bacteria and mold. For example, the Stella® Asiago cheese. It’s safe to eat. Just be sure to remove the skin before you eat it.

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