Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 18, 2011

Marzia makes cheese

Heather Jarman, director of Sapori e Saperi Adventures, very kindly took me to the beautiful village of Vitiana, not far from Bagni di Lucca to meet Marzia, who makes the most delicious cheese. Everything is done by hand, from the milking of the cows, sheep or goats to the making of the cheese, as you will see.
We parked the car at the bottom of the village as the streets are much too narrow to drive through.

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Marzia and her family have grapevines and vegetable gardens as well as the animals.

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We arrived in time to see Marzia tying on her apron to begin work on the cheese. Before we arrived the 30 litres of milk had been heated to blood temperature and rennet had been added to help speed up the coagulation of the milk. It takes about 40 minutes to 1 hour. When we arrive the milk is a white gel.

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The milk is put over a flame again and the curd is cut by hand to allow the whey to separate from the curds. Miss Muffet springs to mind here.

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30 litres of milk ready to be turned into cheese.

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Marzia breaks up the curds by hand. She prefers to do this by hand, rather than using a stick or a whisk. The flame is now turned off and the curds are left for a few minutes until they sink to the bottom. The colour of of the whey is pale yellow/green. Marzia then collects the curds by hand and puts them in a perforated mould to drain.

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The curds are pressed to squeeze out the whey.

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They are then taken out of the mould, turned over and placed back in the mould. The pressing and turning is repeated until as much whey as possible is removed.

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The cheese is then left to ferment until the correct acidity has been reached. The time will depend on the air temperature. Salt is then put on top of the cheese and it is placed in a cool cellar or refrigerator. The next day the cheese will be removed from the mould and the other side will be salted. It can be eaten immediately, but is usually left to mature, while being turned regularly, for 1 to 3 months for fresh cheese or more than 3 months for mature cheese.

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Now ricotta is made from the whey. Remember Marzia started with 30 litres of milk. The tub containing the whey is returned to the flame and heated to 92 – 93 degrees C. As the whey is near boiling, some of the bits of curd that float to the top are skimmed off, salt is mixed into the whey that drains from the curd and added to the hot whey. Albumin begins to denature, like when egg whites are heated and white strands float to the top. A little cold water is added at this point and the surface of the whey becomes covered with white albumin strands. The ricotta, which means recooked, is then skimmed off and placed in ricotta moulds. It can be eaten immediately or as soon as it cools.

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2 tubs of ricotta were made from the whey from 30 litres of milk. Ricotta is not really cheese and contains almost no fat or lactose as that has gone into the cheese. You cannot make ricotta without making cheese first. Ricotta purchased from the supermarket may contain some milk as some producers add milk to make ricotta creamier, but if you know where your ricotta comes from you should be able to eat it even if you are lactose intolerant.
I learned lots of things I didn’t know about cheese from Heather and Marzia.
Heather takes groups of people on food tours all over gorgeous Tuscany as well as day trips into the beautiful villages around Bagni di Lucca to visit local producers. She has got to know lots of people like the delightful Marzia who are happy to share traditional ways of growing and making food.

Take a look at Heather’s website – http://www.sapori-e-saperi.comor email her at info@sapori-e-saperi.com

Her aim is to make tourism work to sustain the rural economy and its people. You will also have fun and meet some wonderful people.

We also met Marzia’s goats on the way out.

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I had another wonderful adventure with Heather at the Chestnut Festival in Lupinaia. Click here to join us.


Responses

  1. Love cheese. Goats cheese is gorgeous too. This would be a village worth visiting, and so quiet with no vehicles.

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    • The fresh ricotta is delicious. I tried it while it was still warm.

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  2. Wonderful in the widest sense of the word. I love the ‘artisan’ way of doing things.
    Nice shots, as usual.

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    • I think it is wonderful that these places still exist.

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  3. […] also took me to visit Marzia, who makes cheese. Click here to come along with […]

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  4. Debra, you’ve described making cheese and ricotta beautifully clearly and your photos capture the village, Marzia, the process and the goats a million times better than mine. Would you like a job as a tour guide?

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    • I would be happy to be your offsider. I think these wonderful local artisans need to be supported. Marzia’s cheese is delicious.

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  5. Lucky you! I would love to do something like that.
    Tourism supporting the local rural economy is exactly the kind of tourism I like.

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    • Heather is doing a great job in spreading the word. Her local knowledge is amazing. There is nothing she doesn’t know about small producers in our area.

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      • I feel as if I’ve still got a lot to learn. Something new around every corner and there are so many corners here. And I always learn from my clients. Each one asks different questions. Like the woman who asked whether Marzia makes butter. I didn’t know, so I asked and it turns out she does, and it’s better than the packaged butter I used to buy at the shop.

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  6. What an adventure you’ve been on! 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and your family, Deb! xxx

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    • It was great fun! Merry Christmas to you too!

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  7. Just by looking at your photos, I could feel the tactile pleasure of making cheese. Marzia has beautiful hands, also lovely to see the passion for her work in her face. As you used to say, Deb, when people work with true passion, the work becomes a pleasure, especially when the end results bring culinary joy to people who buy artisan cheeses. The goats look happy in the photo. I wonder if they have individual names? – happy goats, happy cheese!

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    • Marzia’s hands are beautiful. I think I need a tub of warm milk to dip my hands into every day.

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    • I’ll ask next time I see Marzia.

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  8. What a fascinating process. I’ve never really read the process whereby cheese is made. Great post, Deb!
    Kathy

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    • I feel very privileged to have been able to watch Marzia at work. I didn’t know anything much about ricotta until I saw it being made.

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  9. Oh I make cheese too and was so excited to see someone so authentic working the same way.. this was very good very good,, thank you.. c

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    • I had a wonderful morning watching Marzia. I love hands on stuff.

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  10. I like how you show the step-by-step process in your great photos. Great post!

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    • Thanks Fidel, I haven’t heard from you in a while. I will look foe those photos for you now that I am home again.

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  11. What a cute village. Your fabulous cheese making photos took me back to a morning we spent with a shepherd making cheese and ricotta in the hills behind Cefalu which you might have read about. For me, tours such as Heather’s, where you meet local food artisans, are always a highlight of my travels.

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    • Anything that keeps these traditions alive is a good thing.

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  12. What a wonderful way to make cheese! Thanks for taking us along 😀

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  13. How I love these narrow village streets… And cheese… Thank you dear Debra, it was a great post, with my love, nia

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    • Vitiano is a beautiful mountain village.

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  14. You meet some fanstastic people – that really looks amazing. I just had a look at Heather’s website – I will definately bookmark it for future travels. I would love to learn this type of artisan craft.

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    • I hope to see you here and take you to meet Marzia and all the other wonderful people I know here.

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  15. What a wonderful day! This is a different farm from where we went but it looks just as interesting! Heather is just a wealth of great information.

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    • You’re right. I take guests to visit several different cheese makers, and each one is a little different—not just in the way they make the cheese and ricotta, but also their personalities, their families and their animals. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored.

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  16. Oh my, what a wonderful, educational trip I just took into the lush, hands-on life of the countryside. In Italy. I could just smell it and taste the warm ricotta. Many thanks.

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  17. Just wonderful. In the Basque region of Idiazabal, famous for its cheese, many producers use their hands when making it as it gives them a better “feeling” of the product. And they are considered to be amongst the best in the world. When the annual cheese making competition takes place, half a small cheese which has been selected as a finalist can be sold for figures bove 5000 euros!!!!!

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    • It is good that these traditions are kept alive.

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  18. Mmmmmmm . . . (the sound of my mouth watering) Beautiful photos, Italy just the way I remember it.

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  19. It’s wonderful to watch artisans at work. I just love the process of making cheese. All the info on Ricotta was new to me – I must try it sometime.

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    • Proper ricotta made from the whey left after making cheese is absolutely delicious. I can’t figure out why all cheesemakers don’t do it, since it gives them another product to sell before feeding the leftover liquid to the pigs. But if you’re thinking of making it at home, you probably need to start with 15–20 litres of milk in order to make more than a handful of ricotta.

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  20. How lovely! I was thrilled to see this – our little house is in the village of Vitiana right next to the photo of the gate, infact the wall on the right is the corner of our house!!

    The cheese is beautiful. Marzia sells the cheese and lots of other things too in a little shop in the village. Various meats, hams, salami as well as vegetables when they are in season.

    Thank you Deb for visiting the village and taking photos – in a wet and grey Wales it is nice to see the sun shining on our other little home in the hills of Tuscany.

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    • The village is lovely. I went to Marzia’s shop and we bought some of her delicious cheese. I hope the weather improves for you. Call into the blog occasionally for more on Bagni di Lucca and surrounds.

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  21. Heather is a special lady with a vision …I am married to a Chef and we have seen how the US, Hollywood and Food Network has destroyed food and its richness in simplicity. Heather takes you back to the simplicity which for a city girl like me has been simply amazing-I highly recommend all her tours.
    We have a memory from our day with Marzia…she has a special way to identify which type of cheese is which by using old “lire” money coins. She preses them into the cheese to “mark” it before she places in the fridge-we thought that was neat!

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    • I am very keen to do more trips with Heather. I think it is wonderful to support local producers.

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  22. We too had a great day with Heather and visited Marzia. Thanks for bringing back the memories…and happy 2012!

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    • I’m looking forward to doing lots more with Heather in 2012. Happy New Year to you.

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  23. […] rest is here: Marzia makes cheese « Bagni di Lucca and Beyond This entry was posted in Lucca and tagged bagni, beautiful, heather-jarman, jarman, […]

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  24. […] met the delightful Marzia who spent the morning showing us how to make cheese and ricotta. Click here for the full […]

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  25. Reblogged this on Our House in Tuscany and commented:

    There is something interesting to see in many of the villages around Vergemoli.

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