Ramblings in Italy – Alla Caseificio and Salumificio in Puglia

June 23, 2009
Alla Caseificio and Salumificio
by Rocco Verrigni
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I arose early and was picked up by Baggio, a employee of Peppe’s, who drove me a few kilometers away to spend the morning at Cooperativa Agricola Caseificio and Salumificio Allevatori Orsara, a local cooperative making and selling cheese and salumi. I was here to see the cheese making process of a few cheeses including caccio ricotta and mozzarella. I also got a hand or two into the process before it was all over. My teachers were Luisa, Pasquale and Rocchina who make these cheeses and more several days a week. Some of the cheeses are made with latti di mucchi (cow’s milk), some are made with latti di capra ( goat’s milk), and some are made with a combination of both. Along the entire process, I was informed what was being done and for the most part I either understood the verbal exchange or it was just obvious by observation. As often as possible, I would ask questions in order to fully understand the process as well as to practice my Italian. I have found since I have been in Italy that it is easier to warm up to and be warmed up to if an effort is made to communicate in their language. At first they weren’t sure what to make of me, but things got better when we had a short coffee break and by the end of the morning we were all laughing and understanding more. I had a extensive talk with Pasquale who knew some English and he was as happy to practice his English as I was to practice my Italian. I left the caseificio with a bag with each one of the cheeses that was made.

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While at the caseificio, Vincenzo, a food inspector, talked to me for a short time. Shortly after that he called the caseificio and asked to talk to me. He wanted to know if I wanted to visit a small salumi producer. Of course I said yes. We agreed on a time and pick up spot. This whole trip has seemed to unfold this way. One thing just leads to another. The more people I meet the more experiences I have which leads to meeting more people and so on.  At the prescribed time, Vincenzo picked me up and off we went. Like Pasquale, Vincenzo spoke a little English and so the English and Italian exchange lessons continued. Our destination was a small farm 10 minutes from the centrer of Orsara. Along the way I got a narrative of the land, farmers, and  the newly formed coop of 10 or so small farms that produce cheese and salumi. We were met by Michellina who showed me around and explained the operation. They make cured culatello, prosciutto, soppresata, salsiccia, a number of other dried salumi, and salsiccia fresca. We ended the tour with a tasting of a number of salumi. Of course I left with a bagful of a variety of salumi just in case I got hungry on my 10 minute ride back. The hospitality and generosity of the people is never-ending.

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