Making cheese is a fairly dedicated craft. Every day farmers need to make good use of the fresh milk they extract from their herd. In Malta we love our fresh cheeselets and therefore there is a strong appetite for the purchase of a good genuine cheeselet.
Traditionally made from sheep milk but you can also find variations made with goat and cow milk as well. The milk is coagulated with rennet and left to set during the day. Depending on the demand for the fresh cheeselets, then some are air-dried for preservation. Some of the dry cheese is also pickled with vinegar and pepper. Therefore cheesemakers succeed in making three variations from the same batch of cheese.
In Dingli Josephine has her daily ritual of making fresh cheese with the milk of her husband Guzu. Let’s find out more about her daily routine.
“I have been making cheeselets for around sixty years, since I have been married. Because my husband Guzu is a shepherd, he has goats and sheep and brings milk daily for me to turn into cheeselets. I add specific drops to help the milk coagulate and after a few minutes I start spooning the cheese into the baskets. As soon as they start taking shape I turn them around again. This is a daily routine.
When they are going to be taken fresh I let them stand a bit longer in the baskets. Then I take the ones I do not sell on the roof, and put them in wooden containers to dry. When it is windy they dry in three days. I add pepper to a few of them. There’s nothing better to accompany Maltese bread or a salad! Or even better when they are fried in a little oil!
The fresh ones are often used in kusksu (a broad bean and pasta soup), Widow’s soup, pies or even in ravioli. Others are consumed fresh with a pinch of pepper and salt. I love them, even with toast, no butter, I just slice them up with a tomato.
I do not come from a family of farmers so it was my husband who taught me how to make them. And I still make them for him because he expects me to keep making cheeselets from the milk he produces. Here is where you will find me every afternoon, preparing and making fresh cheeselets instead of enjoying a siesta. But then I enjoy and am pleased to see clients who come from the other side of Malta, even from Marsaxlokk and Marsascala to buy and sample my cheeselets. And they keep coming back.” – Josephine Muscat, Ħad Dingli