Caciocavallo Pezzata Rossa is made by Claudio Di Domenico from the raw milk of the rare breed “Red Cow”. Claudio is the nephew of famed Abruzzo cheesemaker Gregorio Rotolo, and the family has been making cheese since the 1970’s.
The Red Cow is a heritage breed, perhaps best known for its high protein and butterfat milk, albeit given in very small quantities. Although it was originally used in the production of Parmigiano Reggiano, by the 1980’s this breed was virtually extinct. Claudio, togther with a handful of other local cheesemakers, have consciously committed to using - and thus preserving - these ancient breeds of dairy cattle.
Cheesemaking takes place at the family farm called La Grancia di Sant Angelo, which is located in the mountains of Abruzzo. A few producers still practice the ancient tradition of transhumance, whereby their animals are transported on a summer migration to higher mountain slopes to access fresh pasture. However, La Grancia di Sant Angelo comprises a vast amount of acreage that allows the animals - and therefore the cheesemaking - to remain in one place.
For production, the milk is first filtered and poured into a wooden tub which, due to its porous nature, acts as a natural starter culture. In addition, the cultures are given a boost by adding a small quantity of
the previous day’s whey or curd to encourage acidification. The milk is heated to between 96.8-100.4º F (36-38ºC) and rennet added to coagulate the milk.
After approximately thirty minutes, the curds are cut by hand and some of the whey is drained off. The curds are then allowed to “rest” in the remaining whey for two hours before being transferred to another vat containing water at 176ºF (80ºC). There, the curds soften, allowing them to be pulled and stretched by hand into the desired shape before being dunked into cold water to harden.
Caciocavallo Pezzata Rossa is a "pasta filata" style of cheese, meaning that the curd is stretched. The unusual gourd type shape of the Caciocavallo is a result of the young cheeses being tied with rope to make a "neck" and then suspended over a wooden rod to mature.