Ok so maybe the Podolica Cow is not exactly lazy, it’s just a perfectionist. Why does the work ethic of a Cow matter? One word, Caciocavallo. Perfectly subtle, slightly salty cheese, lovingly stretched and shaped by hand that is made from the milk of the Podolica Cow.
Grazing in the wild over Southern Italy’s difficult terrain, Podolica Cows eat what they can find. They adapt, they are hearty and they like herbs. Lucky for us Cheese Lovers, this means smaller yields of milk with high fat content, rich with the flavors of their herb grazing ways.
How did I come across this Cheese Trivia Gem you ask? Well, Bello and I like to save money when we travel, so we typically pick up some groceries and wine, to eat one meal a day in our hotel. In Southern Italy, this practice yielded many surprises. Local craftsmen opened their cellars, their caves, their cases and proudly told tales of their trade.
While in Vieste Centro (the city center) we arrived at La Massaia just as markets began to close for the afternoon. A choir of Caciocavallo lined the back wall beckoning to us with their heady cheese scent. Little did we know a passionate Formagère was about to take us to church.
On hearing I was new to Caciocavallo he threw open a door discretely closed to his left and invited us into his Cheese Cave. Forget closing hours, this was important! He led us down a few steps explaining in rapid Italian the secret to his cheese, the Podolica Cow. Rounding the corner I realized this American had just been brought to an Italian temple of cheese.
After noting aging intensifies the flavor and creates a more firm texture, we were left to pick our very own bundle of Caciocavallo. We like complex cheeses and went for a small hardened bulb dotted with age. After a wire brush scrubbing our cheese baby was… chopped in half on a cutting board specifically crafted for its bulbous form.
That afternoon we feasted on a simple meal of Caciocavallo and tomatoes smashed on fresh crusty bread (like passionate Southern Italians do) with a local white wine.
Just in case there is any doubt why a blog post would be dedicated to a single cheese shopping experience, I’ll say this. Bello and I left La Massaia, not just swaddling our cheese baby, but with knowledge and appreciate for the passionate dedication to tradition and craftsmanship of Caciocavallo. To us, the experience represented everything we love about Italy that yields a difference you can literally taste.
Our 16€ bought us enough cheese to enjoy for the remainder of our vacation in Southern Italy and still have plenty to share with Mamma Elena and Papà Piere Luigi back in Torino. The pride with which our Caciocavallo Cheese Baby was born, spoke loudly with every nibble, slice and grate.
Eating in Italy is an education, it’s eye opening. Quality ingredients with little to no preparation can yield a perfect meal. Of corse a view like this goes a long way to a memorable meal too.
View from the balcony of our wonderful Residence MareSol in Vieste, Italy.