Visiting the laboratory of Caseificio Lippolis in Conversano, all five senses are alerted: the eyes light up in the presence of so much white, the nose is conquered by the delicate scent that, together with the vapors, comes out of the steel boilers and you can hear the rustling of the slat of wood that rotates the master cheesemaker to lift the curd which is pulled until a homogeneous, shiny-looking mixture is obtained.
Mozzarelle, cheese & Co.
This dough will become scamorza, fiordilatte or mozzarella and we see it born under our eyes, we still take it warm between our fingers and we greedily put it in the mouth where it releases all the flavor of things done well, making our taste buds explode.
Our chat with Mario, Rita and Sabrina Lippolis, respectively dad, mom and daughter begins a little earlier in the front room used for the sale where all the dairy products are on display.
There they tell us about the birth of the company, created about a year ago, when driven by Sabrina, who attended the scientific high school graduating last year but who loves her dad’s work so much that she wants to learn and perpetrate it, Mario and Rita decide to open their Caseificio Lippolis.
Of course it’s not about improvisation: Mario’s mom had a dairy in the historic center of Conversano and dad delivered milk door to door every morning. And himself since he was 10 attended after school and in summer a dairy right in front of his house where he learned the trade.
So for many years he continued to work as an employee of another dairy until Sabrina and Rita convinced him to the “big leap”: to open a family dairy where today, including them, work seven people including two very young, Angelo and Valentina, whom we see at work in the back. The story of Valentina has moved us: already with a chef’s diploma in her pocket, she arrives very early in the morning every day here from Bari to carry out her 450 hours of internship practice to obtain the dairyman’s diploma that she cares about so much, so as to obtain Mario’s compliments. Which points out that there are many “dairywomen”, not only for physical effort but also for the prejudice that this profession is not very feminine.
While I am enchanted to watch the precise and expert movements my childhood memories emerge when my grandmother made cheese at home and called me to taste the hot curd that had just surfaced.
We instead assist in the preparation of braids and fiordilatte which, together with mozzarella, cheeses, ricotta, ricotta forte, caciocavalli, burratine and artisan Philadelphia, represent the milk-colored temptations that Caseificio Lippolis offers its customers.
Very popular are also the mozzarella pasta sheets, stuffed with stracciatella flavored with honey with speck and walnuts or with raw ham and rocket, the provolone with pepper and truffle and the stuffed figliata, a kind of flask with a filling of drowned knots in cream, to which other ingredients such as mortadella and pistachios can be added.
The first phase of the mozzarella processing starts from raw milk that comes from the Brown Cows bred in the Itria Valley, whose aromas and scents are preserved in the production phases thanks to the traditional method that involves the use of the whey, a technical similar to that of the mother yeast in bread making. The graft whey is a residue from the cheesemaking of the previous day and is very rich in lactic ferments that allow to start the transformation of milk into cheese. This method reduces the added salt and also ensures better digestibility thanks to the lower concentration of lactose – as Mario confirms.
Another detail not to be underestimated is that not only grazing makes the difference, but also the breed represents a factor of diversity, as each one produces a milk with peculiar qualitative characteristics that determine not only aromatic but also nutritional specificities.
The milk is heated to 35°C and rennet is added. The mass that is formed constitutes the curd which is broken into rather large parts and then broken again until small fragments are obtained. After breaking the curd is left to acidify under whey and then left to mature for about 20-30 minutes.
The subsequent processing phase, the one we witnessed live, is called spinning. “In our traditional processing this operation is still carried out manually and consists in cutting the curd into thin slices, inserting it in a vat and spinning it with the addition of boiling water at about 96-97 degrees” – explains Mario. Reaching this temperature not only melts the mozzarella pasta, which is precisely why it is called “spun” cheese, but also reduces the bacterial load.
At this point we are ready to witness the forming, phase in which the various shapes of mozzarella are born, including the characteristic braid shape, forged by twisting three segments of pasta. And this is how we understand live how the term “mozzarella” derives from the verb “to cut off” and perfectly describes the operation, called “cutting off”, of cutting the spun dough with your hands by squeezing it between your thumb and index finger.
Via Macchiavelli 33, Conversano (Ba)
Info: +39 335 6312306