So I took a cheese-making class many moons ago. And by “moons” I mean “months.” I’ve got some cheddar sitting in a “cheese cave” (and by “cheese cave” I mean “mini-fridge”) from that escapade which I’ll crack open in a month or two. Takes for-freaking-ever to make cheddar, but there are some faster cheeses. I’d found evidence that provolone could be made within a reasonable amount of time, so I decided to give it a whirl.
The guy who’s class I took has a great big PDF book of cheesemaking that you can grab for free. Has a bunch of recipes for cheese, other dairy products, how to make a press, and a bunch of related useful info. So there was the provolone recipe in that one, but there were a bunch of other slightly different ones all around the web, such as this one. Many of these called for aging, which I was feeling entirely too lazy to do.
So, I got my gallon of whole milk, dumped it in a pot, put a thermometer in it, and slowly heated it to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
So around this point, it starts getting all curdy and thick. This is when I stick a knife in to slice into cubes. To slice horizontally, you also need to slide it in at an angle (and by “slide it in” I mean, um, nevermind.)
So I kept gradually increasing the heat. And the curds kept curding up. I’m gonna pretend that “curding up” is an official term here. Now, the recipe says I should heat them up to the highest heat I can handle while wearing rubber gloves on, and then press the curds into a solid ball with my hands. Unfortunately, either I am a heat wuss or the milk was too pasteurized or something, as my trying to squish them into a ball resulted in the curds just falling apart more. So eventually I gave up and strained the curds into some netting in a colander.
So at this point, I rolled the curds around in the netting a bit, and just squeezed them into a ball-like shape with my hands. Incidentally, if you just wanted ricotta, this is where you’d just let the cheese drain for a bit, and declare “hey, I just made me some ricotta!” I like how, when trying to make various types of cheese (mozzarella, for example), if you screw up, you still have ricotta. It’s like default delicious failure cheese!
So next I shoved this ball of cheese into a mold, netting and all. I have wooden disks to press the cheese with, so I stuck each of these in a plastic bag to keep from getting all soggy, and pressed the cheese from each side.
So at this point you’re supposed to put the cheese back in the whey, raise the temperature to 200F, turn the heat off, and let the cheese sit there until the whey is cooled. However, by this time it was like 11 at night, and I was tired. Sooo, I think I heated it up to around 150 degrees F, and ended up removing the cheese a bit before “cooled” happened. As much as I love cheese, I also love sleep.
So, then the cheese got to sit around and drain for the next 24 hours. OK, maybe less since that would have put me at 11pm again, oops. After that, it soaked in a salt solution for an hour. I unwrapped it, and, voila!
So, I’m not sure this was really provolone. I’d say it was most like farmer’s cheese, but it still had some essence of provolone. The cheese didn’t really work for my traditional slicing and putting on sandwiches and eating cold purposes. You know one way it worked amazingly, though?
So I took that homemade bread I’d made, added some of this homemade pseudo-provolone, some fresh basil, a slice of tomato, and a little bit of fresh spinach. Baked, ate. Tasted amazing. This cheese is perfect for melting. Repeated the experience the next day with the same ingredients, plus some deli roast beef. Still amazing. This is definitely a melting cheese. Great for hot sandwiches (especially with that basil), worked fine just plain melted on bread as well.
I think it would also pair well with some feta on sandwiches, as it’s a bit bland and feta could give it a nice added kick. I’ve got a chunk of it sitting in the freezer still, and I may also try the rest in some stuffed shells or something, to see how it fares there.