What it’s like to make cheese by hand in Tuscany, Italy

Dec 29, 2016

Making cheese is a messy yet satisfying affair, as SARAH LANE discovers in Tuscany.

Lapo Salvadori milks his sheep by hand on his farm in the Tuscan countryside, where he has been making cheese since he was a child. Now, in his light-filled kitchen, we are standing over a huge pan, heating the resulting raw milk to 25 deg C. The jovial farmer (above) – whose claim to fame is a brief appearance in the 2003 movie Under the Tuscan Sun, which was filmed nearby – is teaching me how to make a firm pecorino toscano.

We gently stir the creamy liquid, then add rennet and leave the mixture to settle for 20 minutes. Once the curds have set, the result is a deceptively light cheese known as raviggiolo. Salvadori scoops off a section to eat later, then vigorously stirs the remaining curd with what is known locally as a frulla (spiked wooden stick) as we continue the pecorino-making process.


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As I plunge my forearms into the warm liquid, Salvadori chuckles at my amazement as I discover a heavy mass of soft cheese, which has formed in the bottom of the mixture. Careful not to break it, we pull the slab out of the pan and put it into plastic moulds.