I left off yesterday, teasing you with tuma, the first, very simple sheep’s milk cheese that is a result of this process I’ve been explaining (or at least, trying to). Cheese making continues to be a mystery to me, which is why I’ve embarked on this journey. Fresh tuma must be eaten within one or two weeks of its production. It’s fantastic when breaded and fried… but I digress.
Back to the curds in the baskets we saw yesterday…. They continue to be pressed and massaged so the whey (the liquid) continues to drain out of them. The curds start to harden and take on the imprint of the baskets. Once the cheese maker salts the cheese, it is no longer tuma, but has become primo sale (i.e. first salt). i.e., Primo sale is a pecorino cheese that is aged for more than a week – usually one month – and salted. (Pecore is sheep in Italian. Pecorino is hard, sheep’s milk cheese.) So, we consume it, once it has been aged for about a month. Once this same cheese is aged (and then consumed) between one and four months, it is called secondo sale (Second salt).
Then this same cheese, once it is aged for more than four months, usually six before it is consumed, is called stagionale or pecorino stagionato.
In the photo with me and Calogero, note the colors of the cheeses in the refrigerator (i.e., a modern cave). The yellow cheese on the lowest shelf is the youngest, while the darker cheese on the top shelf is the oldest.