Saturday, April 18, 2009
This is like playing with Play-Dough, only better; Play-Dough tastes terrible.
After the morning’s milking, Pasquale and I carry the 25 liters of fresh sheep milk to the restaurant where Marjatta will make CHEESE!! (Let it be known that I *love* CHEESE. I love eating cheese but I even like saying cheeeeeeeeeeese. I’m convinced that’s why Americans in their brilliance chose the glorious substance to incite a photo happy face.)
The milk is warmed to 36-37 degrees Celsius (a number for the ignorant wwoofer; members of the Sardinian Cheese Making Clan have a temperature gauge built into their pinky finger and need not be concerned with the trivialities of reading a thermometer). At this point the magic potion is added: rennet.
Rennet is found in the stomach lining of a lamb where it coagulates the mother’s milk into a digestible solid; similarly, rennet will coagulate milk for man into a digestible cheese and likewise rennet will coagulate Brigit’s tea when she mistakenly pours rennet laced milk into her previously digestible beverage.
As the rennet reacts with the warm milk it transforms into a large curd of custard consistency. Marjatta uses a whisk to break apart the curd and allows the milk to separate; the curds sink to the bottom of the pot and the whey floats to the top.
I dive my hands into the whey; it is still warm. The curds below feel like Play-Dough. I’m instructed to slowly collect the curds and create a log on the bottom of the pot. It’s rather a fun task. Once formed, the curd-log (not to be misspelled nor mispronounced) is lifted out of the whey and placed into a perforated cheese mold.
Repeatedly, the curd is pressed within the cheese mold; the whey is drained and saved for making ricotta. Eventually, after the curd has been pressed and flipped, pressed and flipped, it is put aside to drain further for several hours before it is salted and stored in a cheese cellar.
I’m tempted to eat it immediately but must wait patiently (or not) for a minimum of one month while the young cheese dries. In the meantime I eye a previously made pecorino and say “Cheese please!”