Say Cheese!

 One of the nice things of living in Umbria is that you're surrounded by small producers of heavenly food.  Meet Gianni and Simona of Cellitti, cheesemakers in Porchiano del Monte. I spoke to Simona the other day and asked her some questions.


Cellitti isn't a local surname, where are you from?
That's Gianni's last name, his family is from Abruzzo.  I'm from Romania. He comes from generations of shepherds.  He grew up around sheep and can't live without them.  When we go on vacation and are away from our farm, after a few days he starts to dream of sheep bells ringing!
He can't be away from his sheep too long.

Why did you choose Porchiano del Monte to make your cheese? 
Previously we had been living and making cheese in Civitacastellana near Rome for about 5 years.  I really like this area because it's so beautiful and green so when we heard that this farm was for rent, we jumped on it!

Does Gianni make the cheese?
Gianni is the shepard, he takes care of all of the cows, sheep and goats we have.  He gets up very early in the morning, around 4 or earlier to tend to and milk them.  They graze in different fields around the area and then towards the evening he puts them back into their barns.  
I'm the one who makes the cheese.  I asked my father-in-law to teach me.  At first Gianni didn't think I was going to be able to learn but in time I've mastered it.  When we married I began to make the cheese for the farm since my father-in-law has become too old to continue.  
Gianni helps me and we transform 500 liters of milk a day from 500 sheep and sell fresh sheep or cow ricotta.  We have all sorts of cheeses: fresh, aged, with rosemary, or chili paper, you name it.  

I got special permission to get 'behind the scenes' photos of Gianni & Simona making their cheese.  The whole process takes about 3 hours. What I'd like the photos to transpire is the pride that goes into the entire process of raising their animals and transforming the milk into wonderful cheese. 



Simona filtering the morning's sheep milk.





















Pasteuriation.






While the cheese pasteurizes for about 30 minutes, Gianni cleans  the cheese containers.  He's always in movement, very difficult to get a still image of him!








A little bit of vapor to sterilize the containers.
















Adding the rennet diluted in milk.
After about 20 minutes, a type of cream forms.

















Gianni testing the consistency.
Once the rennet has solidified the milk, Gianni breaks it up.  This process requires alot of muscle.
Once it's ready, the almost cheese gets poured into a container.
And of course I had to taste test it! Yum!





Pouring.
The containers are almost filled. The liquid whey you see at the bottom will be used to make ricotta.
The cheese gets steamed to release excess whey, then Gianni turns them.  This is repeated 3-4 times.
All of those containers are about to become wonderful sheep ricotta.
While the cheese is settling, Gianni quickly washes the huge vat in order to get it ready for making ricotta.
Simona transfering & filtering the whey.




Of course I had to try the ricotta, c'mon you would've too!
The whey gets heated at 70°c for about 20 minutes with a little salt.



If you happen to pass by Porchiano del Monte (Amelia) in Umbria Italy, drop by, they'd love to have you taste their cheeses. :-) 

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