These days you find so many different types of cheese. In UK supermarkets the most popular cheese, after the English ones, are the French, Italian and Spanish ones. I love them all but when it comes to freshness there is nothing like a freshly made cheese you can buy in a delicatessen shop or even better where it has been produced.
Montasio is a local cheese from the North east of Italy. It is a full flavoured hard cheese which is creamy, sweet and fresh when young and nutty and firm when aged. It is almost unknown in the UK and every time my English friends try it for the first time they fall in love with it! I think it is its freshness, its milky taste and the absence of additives and preservatives. I always bring back a big chunk every time I go to Italy.
My mum used to make cheese all the time when she was young and she knows how artisan cheese is made. Even though the production technique has evolved during the years, it is pretty much the same as it used to be 100 years ago.
I recently went to a demonstration in my local town on cheese making. It seems quite straightforward though!
First you will need fresh raw cow milk that has not undergone any treatment and you put it in a copper boiler; the milk is brought to a temperature of 32 – 34C.
Then the rennet is added which is a complex of enzymes that comes from the stomach of calves. This will make the milk coagulate making it look like a gelatin. After 25 min the mass is cut with a tool.
Grains as big as rice are formed. The mass is then heated at 44-46 C.
The dairyman constantly checks the consistency of the mass.
The mass is removed from the source of heat whilst continuing to stir for a further 20-30 minutes until the bean curd hardens up expelling the serum.
Then the mass is removed with a cloth.
The mass is placed in the characteristic “molds” that reproduce the mark of origin and date of production, and then are pressed and drained of the liquid to give it its characteristic shape.
After approximately 24 hours, the cheese is placed in brine (saturated solution of salt and water) for a period of about 48 hours. After this period, the cheese is given a final dry salting and then placed in warehouses to mature.
Fresh cheese anyone?