Canestrato is a semi hard farmhouse cheese from the Foggia region of Italy. Canestrato gets its name from the Latin word 'mulcternum' meaning a place where animals are milked and their milk is allowed to coagulate. The cheese is made in the Moliterno commune with sheep and goat milk, though sometimes the milk of a cow breed podolica is also added. There are two types of Canestrato cheese, one is a richer variant with higher fat content, made of with winter milk, and another is a lighter and aromatic one that is made of summer milk when the animals are feeding on the mountain pastures.
Preparation of Canestrato Cheese
Raw sheep-goat milk is curdled by addition of goat rennet at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. When the curd becomes firm, it is cut scalded by subjecting it to 110 degrees Fahrenheit heat. This stage also involves the addition of salt and peppercorns. The cheese is allowed to age in a cool place for an approximate period of 15 days. After this, it is aged for 2 to 8 months, and is frequently turned and brushed with vinegar and oil during this period. The cheese does not have a standard ripening period, and hence the final product shows many variations in flavor and form.
The final cheese so produced is in the form of cylinders, and has a weight ranging between 2 to 18 lbs. The rind is rosy in color, and ridged, as a result of the pressing reeds. The cheese itself is of ivory color, with a strong and somewhat spicy flavor and good fat content.
Culinary Uses of Canestrato and Food Pairing
The cheese pairs well with fresh uncooked vegetables and fruits like pears. They can also be used to prepare scrumptious Italian dishes. The cheeses which have been aged longer are often used in grated form for topping soups and pastas.