Sam Lovera of Lovera's Italian Market in Krebs and his son-in-law Shawn Duffy oversee the twice-a-week cheese production for their market.
Making the cheese is a pain-staking process that takes about 17 hours of labor and another three days of sitting and waiting.
When I arrived at the cheese factory about 10:30 a.m., much of the work on the day's batch of caciocavera was done. Clad in rubber boots, hair nets, backward ball caps and oversized aprons, Shawn, Sam and the crew huddled around a metal trough exchanging ideas, complaints and solutions to the world's problems in a 500-square-foot-room as they produced about 400 pounds of cheese.
Earlier that morning, around 2 a.m., fresh milk from a local Amish dairy farmer was heated to 160 degrees, which took about three hours. Coagulating agents helped separate the milk into curds and whey. Whey is drained off and sold back to local farmers while curds are immediately transferred to a stretcher, which takes us back to about 10:30 a.m.
Sam cuts off hunks of newborn cheese as it squeezes out of a tube not unlike a giant toothpaste dispenser. The cheese is bathed in 160-degree water and carefully spun and molded by hand into large milky teardrops.
These tears of joy then bathe in ice before a three-hour spell in saltwater. The cheese emerges from the brine to hang from small nooses where it'll dry for several more hours.
“Caciocavallo is very mild, but it gets better the longer it waits,” Sam said. “The milk we get is just tremendous, too. By far the best I've ever had.”
Some of the cheese will be packaged fresh other batches will be aged up to 60 days to turn even more buttery and rich.
“I started making the cheese as a business decision,” Sam said. “But Shawn, he has so much passion for it, I just let him kind of run with it.”