A few month back my mom and I heated, stirred, rested, and babied a mixture of milk and bacteria in the hopes that it would transform into a slab of delicious Asiago over time.
The cheese was placed in our cheese cave (aka a small wine refrigerator) and left to age. I should have been checking the humidity, monitoring the temperature, and just generally keeping an eye on our Asiago-to-be. The key word here is 'should' .. should have, but did not. Sadly, work and life got busy and our little cheese was forgotten for weeks at a time punctuated by realizations of "oh my god! The cheese! I haven't checked the temperature!"
Luckily, when it came time to taste the young Asiago nothing too bad had happened. The tougher rind gave way to a creamy-but-firm interior speckled with a peppercorn or two. The flavor was mild and salty but still identifiably Asiago.
Could it be? Did our cheese thrive despite the neglect? Was it really as simple as placing young cheese in a improvised cheese cave and forgetting about it?
Um.. no. But I didn't learn that immediately.
I had never tasted a young Asiago before, most of the cheeses available in the stores have been fully aged for years and are much sharper and more savory. So our cheese was a tentative success and we grated up the slab to sprinkle on pasta and chicken and eggs.
I thought to myself that maybe cheese didn't need as much babying.. maybe it could just do it's own thing and everything would still be ok...
Fast forward a month and I am now the proud owner of an olive oil rubbed inedible slab of dried-out milk. Curses! It seems that the margin of error and forgetfulness only lasts a little while before the cheese starts to suffer. I don't have any photos of the older, dried out asiago (it wasn't as photogenic as the younger tastier slab).
It was such a waste and I suddenly remembered all of the house plants that I've killed over the years in a similar fashion (oh my god! I haven't watered the plants in weeks!) and I wondered if making aged cheeses was something that I would be able to do successfully.
We're not ready to give up that easily though, and now that we are aging our Gruyere my mom and I are watching it with eagle eyes. It's cheese schedule has been penciled into my daytimer and my mom has been texting me about the cheese cave temperature while I've been away. We're giving the aging process a good solid effort this time around.
Tasting Notes for Young Asiago:
- Appearance: Hard rind, lighter interior. Yellowish white
- Nose (aroma): Slightly cheesy.. almost like Parmesan
- Overall Taste: Mildly asiago-ish
- Sweet to Salty: salty
- Mild (mellow) to Robust to Pungent (stinky): Mild
- Mouth Feel: (gritty, sandy, chewy, greasy, gummy, etc.): Dried rind, soft and almost chewy center, grated easily.
My mom and I are on a year long cheese making adventure along with the other Cheesepalooza participants. We are working out of Artisan Cheese Making At Home by Mary Karlin and will not be posting the recipes for the cheese online. You can join Cheesepalooza at any time!