Recently, Doug and Jan traveled to Tuscany, home of some of the world's best cheeses. Doug offered to share their trip with us and I knew you would be interested. I think this article is the next best thing to being there!
Two Weeks in TuscanyBy Douglas Lumley at The Weekend Artisan
Hi folks, we have recently returned from two weeks in Tuscany. Apart from being just a wonderful place to be, it is also Cheese and Wine Heaven.
The place we stayed was an Agroturismo called Zampugna, just about equidistant between Montepulciano and Pienza. It is in the middle of nowhere,
surrounded by organic farming, olive oil groves and vineyards, offering total tranquility, with a swimming pool.
The owner is Riccardo Berna and he is building a website as we speak: www.leregge.com
The views are stunning, the wine and home made Grappa fabulous
and the cheese is Pecorino!!
We have been to the same place several times, which, in itself says how great it is. However, this time, because we have done all of the big touristy things in the area, we managed to refine our visits a little more, so guess where we went? Of course, to visit a Pecorino maker.
The name of the cheese making company was Cugusi Silvana & C.
They were recommended to us by Riccardo, the owner of Zampugna (he seems to know everyone). Cugusi Silvano is a small local cheese making company which makes 13 different varieties of Pecorino. Yes that's correct, 13 types, from 10 day old Pecorino through to 3 year old wine dressed cheese with peppers. Included in the repertoire of cheeses is Pecorino wrapped in walnut leaves and also Pecorino matured in ash. Believe me, we tasted the lot. The on site shop is fantastic and the staff are so friendly, the company sells to local hotels, restaurants and they have another shop in Montepulciano.
Two cheeses at different stages, one is a 3 year old Pecorino with peppers alongside a two month old version of the same cheese:
The boss was greatly impressed when I told him I make Asiago Pepato. The company also make Ricotta, which Jan loved and Raviggiolo which we did not try. The boss, Fabritsio and I think it was his wife, he introduced her as the cheese queen anyway,
were fantastic hosts and showed us all the way around the dairy and cave. It was also terrific to see the sheep out in the fields next to the dairy
of which there are about 1000 (not all in this picture of course). The whole crew were so proud of their cheese, but it was obvious that for Fabritsio, there is a special relationship with his cheeses.
Some of the producers in the area ship their milk from all over Europe, but this was the true traditional Pecorino, that made it so special for Jan and me.
I think the next pictures are fairly self explanatory so will just post them with a little title to explain.
|The mould racks for Ricotta|
|The milk/cheese tanks|
|3 Kilo Pecorino cheeses…|
|3 Kilo Pecorino cheeses salted and out of the moulds ready to go to the cave|
|Peppered 3 Kilo cheese with date of manufacture on|
|25 Kilo cheeses aging (they are turned once a week for 2 years)|
|10 Kilo cheeses maturing in the cave|
|More 25 Kilo cheeses maturing|
|10 Kilo olive oil dressed Pecorino|
|Jan checking out the different mould sizes|
|Three different sizes of Pecorino all salted and waiting to be placed in the cold room at 10°|
|‘St Jan’ with her cheese halo|
|Curved olive oil cheese dressing table|
Further information I managed to gain with our poor knowledge of the Italian language is; the sheep are milked twice a day, the temperature they add their culture and rennet is 36.° I didn’t want to appear rude so didn’t ask about production statistics, but believe me, walking round the cave, there was enough to keep them going for the 2 year maturation cycle.
It was a fabulous morning, so all we can say is thank you Fabritsio. If you ever find yourself traveling out of Montepulciano towards Pienza, about 2.5 km out on the SS140, you will find Cugusi on the right, pop in and treat yourself, it’s worth it. You can of course also visit them on www.caseificiocugusi.it
To read a little more about our trip, take a look at my blog article Pure Heaven!