by edible South Shore
edible South Shore & South Coast recently held a Fresh Cheesemaking class with Chef Rosa Galeno. Here are her memories and recipes, and eSS&SC photos from the fantastic evening.
Usually we would make fresh cheese and serve it sliced, dressed with salt and pepper, and drizzle with infused olive oil. Always served with a slice of homemade bread which was made three times a week. Tomatoes if available. Pears were always a special treat in the winter months.
My mother made formaggio almost every week–it was a staple in our house especially since my dad would sometimes have left over milk from his deliveries.
I remember waking up early mornings and finding my tin cup–all of us had a tin cup and with my eyes still sleepy I would find my way into the barn where he was milking since early dawn. I would hand my dad my tin cup to fill-the milk was so warm you could see the steam…pure raw milk.
On rare occasions my father would have extra milk that did not sell. Nothing goes to waste-my mother would be busy making all the fresh cheese and ricotta she could capture from the precious left over milk. In an effort to avoid spoilage she would protect her cheeses with salt and air.
First she would dry the outside with air but always kept in a cool environment. As the rind was hardening she would also salt the outside, once the rind got hard it indicated to her that the inside of the cheese was tender on the inside and ready to enjoy. She would sell them after months of careful curing.
In regards to ricotta: When extra ricotta was made (it has a short shelf life that you can extend by using salt). My mother extended the life of ricotta from salting from the outside in.
So it became ricotta salata-this is a method she learned from living on her farm in Calore-a small town with some 1100 people who all ate and breathed sustainability and still do so today for the most part or for those still brave enough to stay and live off the land and try to remain true to their craft of pure life…we visit and I still have one aunt who does just what I am talking about. She lives off the land with pride.
When we visit her food is just indescribable-truth in all of it-flavor is uncompromised.
And hard work that makes each morsel worthy of praise. Zia Angela thinks it’s the normal way to live.
Ma’s formaggio di casa; also known as fresh cheese
by Rosa Galeno
FRESH CHEESE Ingredients:
1 gallon of whole milk
1 quart of heavy cream
5 junket tablets
1 tall pot with a heavy bottom
Lots of cheese cloth
Small baskets or tins to collect cheese
Juice of ½ lemon (discard seeds and pulp)
1 quart whole milk
Left over whey from Fresh Cheese (see above)
Basket to collect cheese
If you are using local dairy milk (Arruda, or Hornstra for example) this formula works just fine but I have found that using commercial supermarket milk (Hood, Garelick, or store brands) does not curd as I anticipate. For that reason, if I only have supermarket milk, I will add additional quart of heavy cream (a total of two quarts) and keep all other directions /ingredients the same.
- Organize all of the supplies and have them ready to use
- Sieve lined with cheese cloth for the fresh cheese-have a bowl under the sieve to collect liquid
- Have one quart of heavy cream ready to pour
- Have one gallon of whole milk ready to pour
- Dissolve five rennet junket tablets by removing two tablespoons of warm milk/cream in pot, let stand until tablets dissolve
- Once tablets are dissolved immediately pour into milk cream and begin to stir with slotted spoon till milk cream feels like sun warm (or approximately 125-130 degrees per food thermometer)
- Take off the heat
- Let rest until liquid begins to move and curd (if you look close into the pot you will see movement within the milk cream )
- After about an hour or two your milk/cream liquid should separate, if not let it stand until it does (the amount of time is determined by the quality of milk and how the rennet is working by way of temperature and liquid), it should take up to 12 hours
- You should now have curds floating on top of the milk/cream /you will see separation between curd and whey
- With a slotted spoon begin to break curd gently
- You should see a distinct separation of liquid (liquid will thick and murky), curds will float to top of surface
- Carefully collect curd with slotted spoon and place into cheesecloth-lined basket
- Let fresh cheese cool and drain
- Once completely cooled, cover with additional cheesecloth and place in fridge
It will remain fresh and light–keep covered with cheesecloth at all times. This is what is referenced as Farmer’s cheese, Formaggio fresco, or Fresh cheese.
Ma’s ricotta Fresca / Via Terzo Melfi #90
by Rosa Galeno
- So you have made fresh cheese and murky liquid is left in the pot (it is less than the one gallon you began recipe with)
- Add 1 quart of whole milk to the whey
- Add ½ fresh squeezed lemon or equal of 2 tablespoons (strain pulp and discard seeds)
- Keep on low heat until it warms up
- Stir continuously until liquid thickens
- Eventually thick milk solids (curds) will rise to the top
- In case you have pockets of boiling liquid on top of pan, pour a little of cold water in that area and it will stop the boiling but continue to make curd
- Once top of pan is filled with curds remove from heat
- Break curd up with slotted spoon
- Quickly remove curd into prepared basket, otherwise curd chunks sink to bottom of pot
- Drain, cool, and enjoy the soft flavor of this wonderful treat
Alternate way to enjoy ricotta:
Cook pasta (any pasta with lines is best). Take one cup of fresh ricotta and add ¼ cup of water from pasta pot, add 2 tablespoons of sugar or to your taste, blend till sweet enough for you. Toss into pasta. Grate fresh nutmeg or cinnamon or both over top.
To clean cheese cloth or butter muslin or linen you use to strain your cheese/whey:
The best way to clean all clothes is to simply rinse as many times as it takes for the water to be clear with zero evidence of milk solids or any residue of whey or cheese… Finally I let the cloth sit in a bowl of water and continue to rinse and repeat until the water is completely clear water. Lay flat to air dry Store and use only for making cheese.
Your original milk and heavy cream have really provided two incredible foods: the traditional fresh cheese and the light and fluffy ricotta.
But there is more.
My mother told me this recently: I had seen her drink the warm whey after making our cheeses – but I never knew the story of it being a food for health, and this is what I learned–the bottom of the whey liquid that has been producing first fresh cheese and then ricotta still gives one more food….la Pesca (the peach). I think it gets it name because it is like peach fuzz, but she said that as a child her mother would give all of her siblings a small amount of la Pesca as a way of cleanse….it also acted as a protein drink. Truly there is no waste from what started out as milk product to a finished cleanse. La Pesca is left on the bottom of the pot and transforms itself just by letting it sit and rest in the pot into almost a soft custard. Women would scoop it up – eat it up until the last morsel was enjoyed.
My mother has been teaching me how we lived off our land and how she kept spinning those simple ingredients until there was nothing left.
This simple recipe of milk and heavy cream identifies the need for integrity in what we use for ingredients…the result is nothing less than a perfect food.
Recipe and memoir © Rosa Galeno, 2015. All rights reserved.