Wednesday, May 28, 2008

They Like it…they really like it!

I sit here in the (finally) hot Tuscan sun (about 26 C) with my tan enhancer on squinting out at the pretty Val D’orcia. Today I am looking out at the neighbour’s pea field (from last year) down below. The field is peas again this year – not because it was seeded to peas, but I am assuming they must have used a John Deere combine to harvest….(those combines like to throw a little out …right?)

The field is actually peas mixed with red wild poppies, yellow wild mustard and something white that looks like baby’s breath. I usually stop at the field on my way by for a snack – although the peas are getting dry.

Cheese making is still wonderful. Today we made a pecorino (sheep cheese) with walnuts mixed in! I think it will be great.

I have had an exciting weekend. Well exciting if you consider cheese exciting.
This weekend we made caprino (goat cheese). This cheese reminds me of cream cheese. Here they favour it with different herbs and spices and then use it as a spread on bread. There have been the old standbys that we have been eating for breakfast; chive, cumin (pumpernickel) and paprika. To sell they also do a cracked black pepper and a mixed herb caprino.

When ever we would be making the flavoured caprino cheese, I would always be concerned with the amounts of ‘ingredients’ (salt and flavours) I was adding. Ronald the Austrian cheese maker (my mentor) said I could be creative as that is what he was told…”Be creative when making caprino”
Well that phrase was music to my ears…hmmm…what other flavours would be good???

One day Ronald and I were walking back from the best winery just down the road, Capitoni. I was picking a wild flower bouquet and one of the pretty pink flowers I picked, he told me, were wild onion. So I smelled them and they sure smelled like onion. I ate it and it tasted like…ONION!

After 9 hours, I was still alive so I knew these flowers mustn’t be (very) toxic and decided that I would recreate the good ol’ standby flavour of cipollina (dried green onion). Being that the cipollina caprino is already white with green specks of dried onion, how about adding pretty pink wild onion flowers?

Ronald rolled his eyes when I revealed my idea. I double checked with Ulisse that the flowers were not toxic.
I was so excited to make this cheese. My hands were actually shaking and my heart was racing as I folded the delicate pink flowers into the soft white cheese. I put the cheese in the form and went with Ronald to Capitoni’s for a taste of their “aqua santa di Capitoni”(holy water of Capitoni – this is what Antonella Capitoni calls it).
Upon my return, I went to ‘flip the cheese’. Mamma mia! What a beautiful sight to behold! It turned out perfect. It would be ready tomorrow.
The next day I was too tired to wait until 8 pm to eat so I prepped the cheese on a white plate and left in the kitchen with a note for Sandra presenting this new cheese I named, “formaggio alla primavera” (cheese of spring).

I went to take my laundry out of the laundry room and on my way back I met Sandra. She said, “nice cheese, it’s pretty.”
Whew! I thought to myself. Wasn’t sure of the reaction I’d get. I told Ulisse (the husband) the night before about the cheese and the oldest son Simon was looking forward to tasting my “hippy cheese” as he called it.

Then Sandra asked, “How much of it did you make?”
Hah, I thought to myself. She is worried that i have made too many of these strange cheeses.
“Only one more” I reassured her.
“Oh, ok” she replied with a smile.

The next day Ronald revealed to me that everyone at supper the night before liked my cheese. Yay! I thought to myself. Then Sandra actually said to me that the cheese was really good! I was very happy to hear all of this.

A tour group came through Podere Il Casale. They were from Cretaiole, the agriturismo near Pienza I happened to stay at last September. They were all peering through the caseificio door when one of them said to me,“By the way that was nice flower cheese”.
Apparently Sandra gave them my cheese and a few of them made very positive comments abour it. Was I ever proud. One lady as a matter of fact said it was “ visually stunning”. Oh gosh!

Ulisse put in a request to me for lavender caprino. So I made it as he has a restaurant that he thinks would like ‘flower type of cheese’ – especially the lavender. I made it tonight – I probably won't like it but I don’t like lavender in general. Besides I think the full-bodied lavender would be better in the mild flavoured pecorino. We will see!


universal elixir said...

we just celebrated our 3 yrs - yay and we went to the keg. i celebrated a little toooooo much ( lots of vino as you call it) and then went to chapters - bought a cd and a couple books!!! love that!!! (i have beeen having to rewrite this a few times). so haven't had a chance to read through your entry like i would like to. will remind myself to tom. have a good night and glad you are still enjoying making cheese. chat soon! lotsa love

universal elixir said...

okay - i am awake and in full form. maybe you should sell them the recipe....even though they know what it is - this way you can make some royalties off it - or at least, leave them a photo of you and the cheese together, so they would remember who created it when all the restaurant goers order the yummy cheese.