Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese, Modesto California
A visit with Mariano to see how he makes that famous bandaged cheddar.
After meeting at the American Cheese Society convention in San Francisco, we headed to the Fiscalini Farm in Modesto for a visit. John Fiscalini runs a very tight ship.
Ricki and Mariano were talking while waiting for the milk. Once it arrives the acidity is checked and starter is added followed by the rennet.
When the proper set is established, the cutting begins, first some hand work and then the automated knife delivers the proper cut. The curd is then stirred as it is heated gently until a proper curd is determined.
At this point the curd is gently pulled to the sides to leave a central trench and the whey is allowed to run off. Mariano finds this early gentle curd work assures a proper drainage which will benefit the final texture.
Once the whey is drained the blocking of the curd begins. This is the stage where more whey drains off and the acidity continues to develop. Notice the attention being paid here to the blocking and stacking and how the ends are tucked into a compact form.
Once the 'cheddaring' is completed, the curd will be broken into smaller bits, salted, and placed into cloth 'bandages' in hoops. The blocks are cut again and stacked into a very compact mass that will begin to stretch out under its own weight. This is the 'cheddaring' process that give the cheese its typical texture. These are then placed in a press and is pressure applied until ready for the aging rooms.
In the aging room a fine white mold first appears on the surface within the first few weeks and then gradually a darker blue grey mold will begin to develop. The bandage actually provides a substrate for these mold populations. After a few months these molds begin to dry back, forming this fine package. A turning system is used that allows an entire row of cheese to be turned at once, providing for a more even aging.
Mariano's smile here indicates the joy earned from a craft well mastered. A fine cheese maker's work is never done as he follows through right to the very end.