Milk in the veins

Production styles and producers of all ages from across the world are celebrated in our Taste Workshops during Cheese.

On Saturday, September 21, we were in the hands of a group of dairy artisans who have milk in their veins, carrying forward cheesemaking traditions that have been handed from their ancestors.

Being born into a family of cheesemakers is often a great advantage for anyone who wants to follow this path. If you breathe the smell of fresh milk and whey from infancy, there’s an absorption of knowledge and skills which happens naturally.

Serena di Nucci, Emilio Spada, Marcella de Vita and Gregorio Ferro of Casa Vinicola Scarpa.

And yet, if one wants to do things a little differently from the way things have always been done, a family tradition can be an obstacle. How do you tell your family that you want to turn it all upside down? How do you innovate in a family business which has always been dedicated to the creation of traditional cheeses? How do you create your own space, and allow your own personality to flourish?

Serena di Nucci of Caseificio Di Nucci in Agnone—a fascinating and little-known corner of Italy in the region of Molise—was here to tell us about her own experience, as was Emilio Spada of Cau e Spada, from Sassocorvaro in the Marche. They were joined by Marcella De Vita, another young cheesemaker who became an affineur after studying at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, who works to communicate this marvelous world of cheeses and cheesemakers, promoting their products and building a network that brings cheese artisans and conscious consumers closer together.

SERENA

Serena di Nucci, 30 years old,  works with her sister Antonia (27) and brother Francesco (26) in their family business, embodying the expression milk in the veins. “My family were shepherds, then transhumance pastoralists and later producers. Since I was a child I’ve breathed cheese, lived its life as my own. I’m used to days governed by nature, and I miss them when I’m away. So after Pollenzo I returned to Molise, where producers are taking on a heroic challenge every day.”

“In the beginning we’re less aware, but today our productive philosophy is clear. We make stretched-curd cheeses with raw milk, and without selected starter cultures. For me whey starters are home.”

We can appreciate just how serious Serena is about her dairy dedication by tasting her butter, symbol of the great creativity that characterizes the work of a cheesemaker. “It’s used to wrap, hide or conserve something. The outer layer is like a caciocavallo, with butter inside that’s processed in wooden barrels. It’s acidic and sweet at the same time.”

As well as butter, the Di Nucci family have another jewel in their crown: Agnone caciocavallo, an Ark of Taste product strongly linked to the family with the local area. “It comes from the milk of bruna and pezzata rossa cows who graze on pasture at up to 1300 meters. It’s a young caciocavallo, aged in aired cellars. It has all the aromas of butter and denotes the incredibly hard work that we’re doing on the agricultural level: from month to month we decide the price based on the quality of the milk.”

EMILIO

The desire to innovate, to rebel, and to create new products is evident in Emilio’s word. “I’ve got an anarchist soul, I don’t follow the rules, and I don’t think the way things have always been done is necessarily the best way to do things. At first my father asked me: why do you want to throw the milk away? Why turn everything we’ve always done on its head? An example is the wild robiola of Montefeltro, served by the spoon, which comes from a land where traditionally, robiola wasn’t made.”

“I wanted to experiment. My father made just one type of cheese, a classic central Italian pecorino. Today with sheep milk we make 15 different types of cheese, but not pecorino. Milk is something extremely complex, it has multiple personalities and I want to get to know them all.”

by Silvia Ceriani, info.eventi@slowfood.it

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