It is easy to make Bulgarian kashkaval using Bacillus Bulgaricus Kashkaval starter culture.
It only takes a few easy steps to make your own soft yellow kashkaval cheese.
You can use any kind of milk you want — cow’s, sheep’s, goat’s, skim, whole, raw, pasteurized, dairy (unfortunately this does not work with non-dairy milk), it will make some great sirene! Just avoid using ultra-pasteurized or UHT milk because the taste of your kashkaval won’t turn as good. For best results, we recommend using whole milk.
The instructions below are for treating 4 litres (1 gallon) of milk so you need to adjust them accordingly for other quantities. 4 litres (1 gallon) of milk to make about 800 grams (1.6 lbs) of soft yellow (kashkaval) cheese.
Ingredients and utensils that you would need
- 4 litres / 1 gallon of milk
- 1 pack of the kashkaval starter culture (it’s best to use the entire pack so make sure you have a pack for the volume of milk you are treating)
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid animal rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool non-chlorinated water – the rennet is sold freely in stores
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup cool non-chlorinated water – the CaCl2 is sold freely in stores. In general, the calcium chloride solution has to be in the same amount as the rennet solution (and the dilution is 1:10, where 1 part is the CaCl2 or rennet and 10 parts are water). These are just guidelines, you can experiment to see what proportions work best for you
- cheese mold (this is where you will shape and brine the cheese, basically any container would do)
- salt, kosher is best but any kind works too
- a basic kitchen pH meter to measure the pH of the curd and the whey with
- a quick-read thermometer – can do without but it’s always handy to have one
- Prepare the milk: Heat the milk to 165-172°F (74-78°С). This is done to kill any existing bacteria in it, which could react with the Lactobacillus Bulgaricus culture. Cool the milk down to 93-97°F (34-37°C).
- Culture the milk: Add the starter culture to the milk. Let it hydrate for 5 minutes, then stir it into the milk using a gentle up-and-down motion to distribute thoroughly. Leave to work for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the diluted solution of calcium dichloride and stir it into the milk slowly for about 2-3 minutes. Add the rennet in tiny squirts while continuing to stir, stir for another 3-5 minutes. Cover the container and let it sit for about an hour. At this point the milk should have transformed into a sold mass of curd surrounded by liquid whey. The milk would be set at this point but it won’t be very firm — try pushing it inside from the container using a spoon or a knife. The separation should be fairly clear. If the line of separation is still blurry, re-cover the pot and let it sit for another 15 minutes then test again.
- Process the curds: Cut the curd into 0.5 inch (1cm) squares using a knife. Try to cut so that pieces are more or less the same size. Then let them sit for another 5 minutes. This helps more whey to separate. Now you need to slowly heat the container with the curds. The temperature should rise by 1 degree every 5 or so minutes. Begin heating, while stirring the curds and whey, slow and steady raise the temperature to 95-98°F (35-38°C) in 10 minutes. Then continue heating even slower getting to 104-108°F (40-42°C) in 20 minutes (total heating time is 30 min). Now let sit at this temperature 104-108°F (40-42°С) until curd is pH 5.6-5.7 (about 2 hours).
- Drain and cheddar the kashkaval: Next we need to drain the curds. At the end of the previous heating step you should have curd grains settle in the bottom of the vat. Now drain all the whey but save it as you will need it later. Press the curds together in a block to form doughy mass, while draining excessive whey. Drain them for another 1 to 2 hours removing whey as it separates. Now comes the cheddaring part. For this you need to leave the curd block in a colder place (about 68-72°F or 20-22°C) to ripen until it pH reaches 5.2-5.3. This usually takes anywhere between 2 and 10 hours — you may simply leave it overnight. The curd should be now ready to stretch into shapes. Do a stretch test to determine if it is — take a few small pieces of curd and immerse them in 170°F water for a few minutes, then knead them together for a few seconds and check if you are able to pull the curd into a shiny string. If the curd is not ready then you can warm it up again to renew the bacterial growth and lower the pH.
- Stretch and shape the kashkaval: Next we shape the kashkaval. This is done in a hot bath. Cut the curd block into thin strips and place them in hot brine — 165-170°F (72-75°C) made of water and 16-18% NaCl, then cook them for 3-5 minutes. Take them out, roll them together and gently knead them to form a homogeneous mass. If the pieces don’t stick together well, dip them into the hot brine for another 2-3 minutes. After kneading for a while and when you have achieved a smooth and shiny surface, transfer the curd dough to a mold (any container will do). Really press it down, it should be homogenous at this point. Now you need to cool the shaped cheese curd. There are two ways of doing it – cool it immediately in a cold water bath (50-60°F or 10‑15°C) for about 40-60 minutes or leave it to cool on its own overnight in a cool (54-64°F or 12-18°C) place.
- Salt and preserve the kashkaval: Again there are two ways to salt the kashkaval — try them both and see which one you like better. Dry salting — dry salt the kashkaval on the surface and leave at a cool room temperature of 54-60°F (12-16°C) for two days, then wipe the kashkaval and salt again, repeating the process for about 20 days. Brine salting — prepare brine of water and salt (18 ‑ 20%) while heating it up to 167-176°F (75-80°C), then cooling it down to 50-60°F (10-15°C). Place the kashkaval in this brine for 2 hours. Then add a spoonful of lemon juice (or a pinch of citric acid) to the brine, dilute it more with water and use this brine to store the kashkaval for a week in your fridge at around 40°F or 4°C.
Done! Your kashkaval is ready to be enjoyed!