During our stay in Campobasso, the capital of Molise, our B&B host Luciano Viola treated us to some local food specialties, including a fresh cheese ball that resembled mozzarella di bufala but was called fior di latte (flower of milk). It tasted sweet and pure — like gently solidified fresh milk.
We were intrigued, so Luciano offered to take us to the cheese producer the following morning.
It’s a good thing Luciano guided us. Although the shop was close to the B&B, it was located in a courtyard with no business signage whatsoever. Guess if you don’t know where Zio Pasquale cheese shop is located, you’re out of luck.
Luciano introduced us to owner Antonio Tromba who has worked in dairy and cheese production since the age of 10. At the age of 81, he had arisen that morning at 5 a.m.
One half of the operation was devoted to production space; the other half to retail.
As Tromba and his two assistants worked the cheese vats, he explained fior di latte.
Making Fior di Latte Cheese
Zio Pasquale’s fior di latte starts with fresh local whole cow’s milk (as opposed to the higher-fat content water buffalo milk used to make mozzarella di bufala) mixed with rennet to transform the milk into curds and whey.
The curds are cut and shredded then transferred to a wooden barrel of boiling water. Here the curds are stirred, and stirred, and stirred with a paddle until they form long elastic masses.
The cheesemakers break off chunks and shape them into balls and braids which are threaded onto raffia ties and suspended on bamboo sticks in salt water for 2 hours.
Their skilled, rhythmic motions are like a dance.
Their loyal customers appreciate the work.
Zio Pasquale is located at Via F. Pietrunto, 27, 86100 Campobasso.
- Dairy and cattle husbandry is a long-standing component of agriculture in Molise. Click here to read Maria Russo’s fascinating story of the transumanza, the twice-yearly cattle drive to and from pastures in Molise and pastures in Puglia.
- In the Mood for Molise, Italy, the blog post about our visit to Campobasso, is here.
- Fior di latte, flower of milk, is also the name of a popular gelato flavor. Whatever you do, don’t call it vanilla. Read about it here.
Have you sampled fior di latte cheese?