I can’t believe it’s the last day of the Grundtvig Project. We’ve come such a long way and made such great friends. The extraordinary conical Trullis of Alberobello glint in the strong sun. (Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bari, Puglia. You must visit. It’s amazing.)
We are in for a great surprise today. Little did we know we would be taught by the great chef Domenico Maggi today. We are shepherded into the Eccelsa Catering College and greeted by its administrators. Spotlessly clean, stainless steel work surfaces, big fridge freezers and industrial sized kitchen implements stand firmly like soldiers.
Domenico himself is a charismatic, jolly fellow whose English is impeccable. He welcomes us with open arms and introduces us to his colleague and family friend Pascuale, the Mozzarella Maker. Domenico travels the world teaching Italian cuisine typical of the Apulia region and often takes Pascuale with him to demo the amazing process of making Mozzarella (I am an addict and often sneak a pack into my basket to devour voraciously neat!).
The process starts with a large vat of cow’s milk heated just shy of boiling point, say 90 degrees. Rennet is added (normally made from cow’s stomach but you can get veggie versions made from a type of fungus: microbial rennet. You can also make rennet using safflower, melon, fig leaves or thistles.)
Next up you can season if you like but the amazing thing is that you instantly see curds forming in the milk like little icebergs in the sea. Just keep adding hot water. Using a large wooden baton to stir, Pascuale rolls and lifts, rolls and lifts until the curd joins together to make a large, stretchy ball. The Mozzarella is ready when you can stretch it into a huge thin sheet and allow the light through. When all the curds are conjoined Pascuale then breaks little bits off to make shapes, even animals or Burrata (which means buttery) filled with cream and bits of curd – delicious!) He has asbestos hands, being able to plunge them into the hot liquid with little effect.
It’s hard to explain how happy I am feeling at this moment. I’ll never forget Pascuale, Mozzarellailo!