Muzzarella co’ a mortedda or indo a murtedda are the dialect names for a typical cheese from the central Cilento, an area within the Cilento National Park.
Though called mozzarella in Italian, it is in fact a very fresh Caciocavallo. The processing technique is the same: Raw cow’s milk (from one or two milkings) is brought to 36° to 38°C, then the rennet is added, and in some cases some whey starter. The curds are broken into grains the size of a corn kernel, then gathered together to drain off the whey. They are left to acidify for between 12 and 24 hours, depending on the season and the temperature, then cut into strips around 1 centimeter thick and stretched in boiling water, lifting and pulling them over and over with the help of a stick. After the stretching, a small ball is formed with the hands, then elongated to form a classic tongue shape. The cheese is eaten fresh, after no more than 5 days.
In the past there was no refrigeration, nor special packaging for cheeses, but across the Cilento grew mortella, the local name for myrtle, which has smooth, non-porous leaves and whose leafy branches were perfect for wrapping fresh cheese. Known as mazzi di mozzarelle, bunches of mozzarella, each bundle, weighing around 100 grams, would contain ten strips of cheese.
The myrtle served as a natural protection and also gave the cheese a unique flavor and fragrance. Over time the myrtle-wrapped mozzarella became a product in its own right, a specific type among the many southern Italian stretched-curd cheeses.
The cheese is white, tending towards straw-yellow. It has a compact paste without eyes and a lactic flavor, with notes of grass and other aromas coming from the myrtle.
Mozzarella in myrtle is too highly prized and aromatic to be used in the kitchen like mozzarella, for example on a pizza or in a calzone. Rather it is a table cheese, to be served as an antipasto with olives, tomatoes and vegetables in oil, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and perhaps sprinkled with a little dried oregano.
Mozzarella in myrtle is produced all year round.
This local flora is what gives mozzarella in myrtle its most significant aromatic characteristics, as of course do the myrtle branches which are still used to wrap the cheese, making it unique. Among the medium-term objectives of the Presidium is an attempt to return Podolica cows to this area, after the cattle were replaced by other breeds.
Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni National Park municipalities, Salerno province, Campania region
Presidium supported by
Parco Nazionale del Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni
of Francesco Carmelo Marinucci
Tel. 329 9144701
Cicco di Buono
of Adolfo Valiante
San Nicola di Centola (Sa)
Via Nazionale, 27
Tel. 0974 939932 - 389 8586838
of Mario Di Bartolomeo
Vallo della Lucania (Sa)
Tel. 335 7782893