We’re continuing our walk though the “other” Italy, the hidden villages and pituresque landscapes where your culinary dreams can come true on an authentic cooking vacation in Itay! Last time we talked about the borgo of Bovino, and this time we’re traveling down the road for a very special visit with one of Italy’s most fabulous chefs and foodies, Peppe Zullo.
After a 25 minute drive from Bovino, our group arrived at a cheesemaking facility. I did not know what to expect, besides amazing cheese of course! We were greeted by the owner, the super charismatic Peppe. Before we stepped foot inside the facility, we were asked to wear shoe covers — I appreciated that because hygiene is very important in food facilities. First, we learned all about the milk utilized in the cheesemaking process. The owner has a farm and uses high quality milk from his own cows to make his cheeses. As he says, “cheese is very delicate and you have to be careful. One of the most important things is the milk.”
By the way, leftover milk from the cheesemaking process is fed to his other farm animals; tossing it away is not an option. According to the chef, “we have to be very responsible because food is very important to us…we are what we eat!” I agree with the chef, wasting perfectly good milk is not an option. Talk about sustainable management of food! We also learned that the cheese produced in the facility is not for public sale. All products are for personal in-house consumption for the chef’s various businesses. So if you want to try this wonderful cheese you’ll have to come to Puglia!
Afterward, we met two expert cheesemakers who also happened to be husband and wife. They demonstrated the old fashioned technique they use to make cheese, no machines, all by hand. FYI, the water is piping hot! The demonstration included a mozzarella treccia or “braid” and a nodino or “knot,” fresh ricotta and of course the famous caciocavallo cheese. caciocavallo is produced throughout Southern Italy, particularly in the Apennine Mountains and in the Gargano peninsula. It is a type of stretched-curd cheese made out of sheep’s or cow’s milk and shaped like a teardrop with a hard, edible rind. caciocavallo was definitely a theme throughout my trip. After the demonstration we got the chance to try all the freshly made cheeses. It was heaven!
Be on the lookout for new itineraries in Puglia, including exploring Pugliese cuisine with Peppe himself, in the coming months. You can read more about my trip to Puglia in The Hidden Borghi of Puglia. And don’t forget to check out our cooking vacations in Puglia while you are at it!
By Darlene Pereda
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