Last Updated on November 5, 2022 by Aaron
Do you love provolone cheese? In this blog post, we will take a closer look at how this delicious cheese is made.
Provolone is a type of Italian cheese that is typically made from cow’s milk. It has a rich, creamy flavor and a smooth texture.
There are many different ways to make provolone, but the Italian traditional PDO provolone making involves several steps that we will detail in this article.
And finally, we will give you instructions on how to make your own provolone cheese at home!
Table of Contents
The whole cow’s milk is collected within 60 hours of the first milking. It will then go through a thermization (considered sub-pasteurization) process, which heats the milk to a temperature of 145 – 149 °F for 15 seconds.
Other cheesemakers might use the pasteurization process or even the ultra-pasteurization process, but they are most likely non-PDO provolone.
The milk is then transferred to a huge boiler tank to prepare for curdling. The residual whey culture, also called the starter culture, from the previous day is added.
Starter culture is helping for the development of provolone’s flavor during the maturation stage. It also contains lactobacillus bacteria that will help to acidify (lowering pH) the milk and form curd.
The milk is then heated to a lukewarm temperature between 97-102 °F and maintained. The animal rennet is added. Most commonly is calf rennet, which can also be lamb or kid. Rennets have different properties, where calf rennet is often produced milder provolone, while lamb or kid rennet for stronger provolone.
The milk is then left to curdle. Meanwhile, the state of coagulation is periodically checked by finger.
Experienced cheesemakers will gently break the curd until the right consistency – clean break – is obtained.
Formation of Curd
The curd is then mechanically cut into pieces and broken into even smaller pieces by agitators.
The temperature is gradually increased to about 122 °F. It’s to help the rennet enzymes to do their job to form into the curd at the optimal level.
It’s then sent to the strainer to separate the whey from the curd. Whey is drained and curd is pressed into block shapes to force more whey out.
It’s then slowly acidified while resting on the draining table.
Pasta Filata (Stretching-curd) Phase
Until the right pH is reached, the curd is now ready for cooking.
The curd blocks are immersed in hot water at 158 °F or above, or more often with the help of a machine, scalding at a temperature of about 131-149 °F (1, 2).
The cooked curd is then kneaded and stretched, by hand or machine, into very long fibrous strings. It should look and stretch like taffy.
Shaping and Brining
The curd ends are sealed. It is then put into a mold, or shaped by hand to certain sizes. Once shaped, chill in cool running water and allow to harden.
After that, the provolone cheese will be placed in a brine bath for a few hours up to 30 days. The heavier and thicker the cheese, the longer the brining process.
This process allows more whey to move out of the cheese due to osmosis. This will help to form a lower moisture cheese for later.
After brining, the cheese is ready to age.
Provolone cheese is tied up, labeled, and coated with paraffin wax. Some are smoked.
The cheese is then transferred to aging facilities to age for at least 30 days.
Some provolone varieties can be aged for up to 18 months, but most often it’s around 6-12 months.