|Pierpaolo Piagneri||Strada Statale 62 della Cisa, Filattiera MS, Italy|
Sheep and cow cheeses (both fresh and ripened), yoghurt and beef and pork meat.
Pierpaolo keeps his animals on pastures that are 7 km from where his primary selling point for his products – and where I went to meet him – is.
His 13 ‘bufale’, 150 pigs, chickens and rabbits are free-range, whereas his 40 cows are kept in a semi-free-range state, as they need to be milked almost every day. They are kept to graze on pastures during the day and brought back to the barn for the night; they will milked early in the morning.
The day’s fresh milked is brought to where he will then prepare his various types of cheese: mozzarelle, pecorini, tomini and many more.
With him I increased my cheese-making knowledge, and finally I have a slight grasp on what rennet is. I’ll try to summarize what he taught me.
Rennet is a complex of enzymes, which can be found either in animals or plants. In animals it comes from the stomach of calves, lambs and kids who have not yet begun eating grass. Plants that produce it, on the other side, are the thistle flower and figs; in this case, it is found in the white substance the figs produce as they are ripening. Once extracted, rennet can be bought as a powder, a paste or liquid. Both were it comes from and what kind one uses will slightly affect the final taste of the cheese. For example, lamb rennet will make the cheese more delicate than kid rennet.
Rennet, put in freshly milked milk, coagulates it, separating the curd – what will then become cheese – from the whey – which if then boiled can become ricotta.
Pierpaolo keeps busy while talking to me: in between answering calls, he starts to move the freshly made curd that has formed in the milk and begins placing it in shapes that he will leave to drip for a while before beginning the ripening process.
Because he has done this so many times, though, he can easily tell me pieces of his story in the meanwhile. Naturalmente Lunigiana is born out of another lifestyle decision: Pierpaolo used to be a financial adviser for an Italian bank. When they decided to move the main offices out of his town, though, he decided that he had had enough.
Having some family land, he first chose to sell wood and to clean the forest underbrush he bought a couple of sheep. This is where it all started, around 1996. He slowly began to work with animals more and more, asking for advice from the ladies of the village who had made cheese and dairy products all their lives. In 2004 he managed to open the structure where I went to meet him, that allows to him better manage both his meat and dairy products and to have a selling point closer to a main road.
A small quote:
When I saw he also made mozzarella, as he has ‘bufale’ I asked him if he made it with their milk (mozzarella di bufala) instead of with normal cow milk (fior di latte). He responded that he had decided to make only fior di latte because the other kind never had belonged to the ligurian tradition (in fact, it comes from Campania). I couldn’t have agreed more.
Could you find it at La Sosta?
Si. We happily decided to get from him some types of cheese plus beef (for tartars or ‘tagliata’, see pictures:) and pork. Trust us, you’ll be able to taste that they have been grown free-range.
P.S.: In the end, I bought the fior di latte to try it and it soon became one of the best mozzarellas I’ve ever tasted.