Dairy farmstead cheese and ricotta - Formaggi e ricotta di stazzo
Dairy farmstead cheese and ricotta refers to a range of cheeses and by-products obtained by the transformation raw ewe’s, cow’s and goat’s milk, carried out directly at high altitude “stazzi”, literally “folds”.
This type of production is to be found in all Abruzzo mountain territory where horizontal and vertical transhumance is practised, where milk is often processed in precarious conditions with the result that the products are certainly valid qualitywise, but with very unique and unpredictable characteristics.
In fact, it is not possible to give a standardised description of the products made in these situations because there are so many variables, from the farmer to the period of the migration to mountain pasture.
There is no doubt however, that the cheese and ricotta made from the milk of stock reared only on the pastures have aromas and characteristics that do not resemble those of products made from milk taken from stall-fed animals.
The processing methods applied to the transformation and preservation of home-made cheeses are some of the oldest and most traditional still in prac-tice. Freshly-drawn milk is filtered with cloths and sieves, and briefly heated (if necessary) over a flame; natural rennet of animal origin is then added.
Once it coagulates the curds are left to rest for a short time, then they are broken with a curd knife, usually made of wood. The cheese is hand-ladled, placed in moulds, usually wicker baskets, and dry salted. The first ageing stage is carried out in the same premises as transformation. Subsequently, if the cheeses are not sold directly from the “stazzi” or folds, they are stored in adjoining premises or, as more often happens, they are periodically taken downhill to be sold, or are matured in premises, usually near the farmer’s home or the folds.
Transformation of any kind of milk, undertaken directly at the place of pasture, is possibly one of the oldest types of known transformation industry.
The history and culture of Abruzzo are closely linked to sheep-breeding, especially through transhumance, which was the oldest and most important means of managing the land and the rational use of resources.