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A Day in the Life of a Shepherd: Podere Paugnano

Marlane Miriello,
Marlane is launching a cooking school in Tuscany with fellow villagers that will take visitors into the kitchens and farms of local residents who will teach cooking secrets and garden wisdom handed down through generations.

Photographs by Stephen Hamilton, copyright 2009.

Consider the cheese you eat for a moment—ever wonder how it’s made? Likely in a large factory, if you bought it in the United States, and most certainly several weeks or even months before you purchased it. In Tuscany, local artisan cheese makers abound. The mouthwatering varieties of sheep’s milk cheeses that are staples in the Tuscan diet are best eaten close to the source. From creamy ricotta to crumbly, tangy, salty stagionato, pecorino cheese is at its best within a few days of purchase.

Radicondoli, situated in a pastoral heaven west of Siena, is home to several sheep farms, established in the 1950s and ’60s by Sardinian families who migrated here when food in Sardinia was scarce and farms in Tuscany were cheap—thanks to the postwar economy that sent so many Italians into the cities in search of jobs. The Radicondolese are the lucky beneficiaries of their rich history, expertise and hard work, and completely spoiled by the easy availability of fresh made ricotta cheese (a universe apart from that stuff in the yellow tub at the local supermarket), and perfectly aged, nutty stagionato that comes to life at the end of a meal when drizzled with local honey and accompanied by walnuts and sweet, fragrant slices of pear.

On any afternoon, the sound of sheep’s bells tinkling in the countryside conjures thoughts of water from a magic fountain, and white flocks adorn the green hillsides as they graze slowly across the land. Just south of the village is the farm of Giovanni and Giovanna, who have graciously invited the guests of Il Campo Cooking School of Radicondoli to come for a morning of cheese making lessons, where we will learn all the phases of cheese production from fresh curds to the pressing of the cheese into wooden forms. While Giovanni is teaching us about the different types of rennet (some are made from vegetables), his wife, Giovanna and their daughter, Tamara, will be preparing us a delicious homemade lunch:

Antipasto: Ravioli Fritto, fried ravioli stuffed with fresh ricotta cheese and parsley.
Primi: Ravioli di erbe di campo, handmade ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and field greens.
Secondi: Agnello arrosto con insalata, roast lamb and salad.
Dolce: Seada con Ricotta, a Sardinian treat made from ricotta and pecorino cheeses, golden raisins, vanilla and sugar.

All will be enjoyed with local wines on the veranda, weather permitting.

For more information about Il Campo Cooking School of Radicondoli, click here

For more information about Podere Paugnano, click here

Photographs by Stephen Hamilton, copyright 2009.

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June 28, 2010A Cheesemaking Lesson at Podere Paugnano
June 7, 2010Making Homemade Goat Cheese
March 4, 2010Goats Cheese at Hindmarsh Valley Dairy - video

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