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Quajata, giuncata, giuncatella abruzzese

Abruzzo cow's milk curd-cheese or sprisciocca

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This fresh, soft paste cheese is made from cow’s milk.

Ingredients include raw, whole cow’s milk, calf rennet and salt. It is milk white and has the typical fragrant aroma of fresh milk, linked to the grasses and forage eaten by the cows. The flavour is mild and delicate, typical of fresh curds.
The milk is filtered into a cauldron then heated to 32-36°C and whey or starter cultures are used to improve acidification by adding thermophilic microbial lactic flora. When coagulation temperature is reached, calf rennet is then added, to make the milk clot, the amounts used being defined by the strength of the rennet itself and the acidity of the milk; the mass is shaken for a few minutes.
The mixture is left for about 30-40 minutes, the amount of time required to complete coagulation. The texture of the curds obtained is checked and then they are roughly broken up with a skimmer, then, after a short pause, the curds are further refined by being broken up into fragments the size of a hazelnut.
The mass is left to settle at the bottom of the cauldron and it is heated in whey at a temperature of 40-45°C (sometimes it may be pressed delicately to the bottom and sides of the container to encourage the synaeresis process). Lastly, the curds are hand-ladled into small baskets (called “fuscelle”). These baskets are set on a sloping surface, called a “tavolo spersorio”, to help the whey drain off into a container, where it is collected to use as a starter culture. The cheese is then pressed by hand and after 30 minutes it is turned once, another 30 minutes are allowed to pass and it is turned again. The cheese is ready to eat immediately and is stored at about 4°C in tubs containing drinking water to prevent drying out. If it is intended for consumption more than 48 hours after production, the surface and rim are dry salted, turning the cheese in the basket after about 30 minutes and then completing salting of the cheese. The product should be consumed within 2-3 days of being made. 
Another fresh locally-made cheese is called “quajata”, and like curd cheese is produced all over the Abruzzo region. It resembles a thick milk with a smooth surface and is made by pouring milk into an enamelled saucepan.

When the milk is lukewarm (approx. 30°C), rennet is added, mixing with a wooden spoon. It is then covered and left to cool while the milk curdles. This ancient technique is a mainly domestic variation of cow’s milk processing. 

L.T. 21-01-2021