Saturday, January 22, 2011

Say Cheese

Saturday morning came cold and dark.  But, we were excited as Paola was taking us to a cheese factory. Not Cheese Cake Factory but a place that makes cheese.  It's a cooperative that makes sheeps milk cheese.  Pecorino and Ricotta cheese.  Pecorino cheese is a close relative to Parmasean in it's use.  The difference here in Italy is parmasean is used in light dishes like vegetable soup or a light pasta or gnocchi.  Pecorino is used in hearty dishes.  It is stronger and would overpower most light pasta dishes or soups.  The soup we made yesterday with potatoes, sausage and broccoli was perfect for pecorino cheese.

The cheese is made by three people working in perfect harmony.  Large vats of sheeps milk is heated and cooled many times to different temperatures.  Finally, a curd settles to the bottom and it is brought out and place in poreous buckets.  Fennel seeds are put in the milk but settle in at the bottom and is not in the final product.  The remaining milk is then syphoned off into another vat and is heated again.  There the curd rises to the top, as it has much less weight by volume.  This is skimmed off the top and is the ricotta cheese. 

The Ecofattorie in Sabine.  They also sell, wine, bread, meats and olive oil.  All from co-ops in the area.

The second photo is the large vat with milk for the pecorino where it's scooped into buckets and allowed to drain.  The steamy photo is the ricotta being placed in smaller buckets.  There it is cooled and then refrigerated.  The pecorino is pastuerized.  The ricotta is not. 

I was allowed a small taste of the ricotta right out of the vat.  Still warm, it was like velvet and tasted heavenly.  We also were given samples of 6 month, 1 year, 2 year and 3 year old pecorino.  Stored in holes in the ground and kept from the open air, it ages and forms a rind that if left undesturbed will last years and years.

1 comment:

Denise said...

I love the cheese descriptions. It sounds like you are enjoying 'La dolce vita'. I wish we were in town when you had your day off. Sounds like you could have used some company. Chris should make it more exciting come Sunday! See you soon!