A trip to a farm house on Italy’s Amalfi Coast was one of the highlights of our Italian food adventure. We entered the family home of Antonio Gargiulo, walking through the front door and into the family’s lounge room. Portraits of the children and family events hung on the walls. We were warmly welcomed into this family space. The lounge opened to an expansive kitchen with a fabulous old wood burning stove. Antonio’s Mama and wife were at the bench preparing to show us how they make Mozzarella and dried Caciotta cheese, drained and set in little wicker baskets.
We watched as Mama used a knife to shave the curd that had been sitting for 16 hours, the texture was that of a hard cheddar. Hot water that had been boiled in one of the big copper pots on the stove was added and the cheese shavings were massaged around the edge of the bowl until they combined and become firm and rubbery. Strong pressure was used to expel any air and then shaped the cheese. It was then soaked in water for a period of time (possibly with salt).
I attempted to recreate the Mozzarella when I returned home but unfortunately all I ended up with was a pool of mush when I added the water…..I will stick to making feta.
This cheese making display was not completed only for our benefit. It is part of a weekly routine that is followed in the house. Mondays Mama makes bread in the pizza oven for the week, Tuesdays are for cheese making and other activities continue through the week. Home made cheese, bread, salami, prosciutto, and pancetta, wine and oil are just some of the foods created from scratch by the family. The property also provides vegetables such as eggplant, salad, tomatoes and capsicums.
This is a hard working family, they take only a half day off on a Sunday each week. Everyone contributes and has a role to play:
- Mama is at the helm, overseeing all activities (including the sorting of the lemons into grades of excellence for sale or use) and cooking for the family
- Antonio runs the farm, grows and harvests the produce, and produces and sells the Olive Oil and Limoncello
- Antonio’s new wife assists Mama, watches and learns.
The lemons grown on the property are specific to the region and are harvested four times a year. The farm is focused on growing high quality produce to create high quality products. No pesticides are used.
Antonio returned from London to his family home when his father became very ill with cancer. When his father passed away Antonio took over the 2 hectare property and his brother manages another family property. They share produce and livestock. The farm has produced and sold high quality Olive Oil for many years. Since returning to his home Antonio has increased sales from around 500 bottles per year to 10,000 bottles. He exports to many countries in the world.
He has also established a Limoncello label, in addition to selling the lemons they grow. The Limoncello is made fresh as it is ordered. Antonio has “trained” his customers to provide him with two weeks notice of their order and he makes it as it is ordered. In addition to these products Antonio periodically allows a small group through his family home to obtain a glimpse of their life as part of the La Cucina del Gusto cooking school program.
Our visit culminated in an extraordinary lunch, made entirely from the products of the farm by the family. Mama and Antonio sat and shared the lunch with us, chatting about their life all the while.
After lunch Antonio demonstrated a technique for making Limoncello and shared his recipe, passed onto him from his Mama. I was quite enamored by his drink and purchased a couple of bottles to bring home. One has since been used to help fend off a cold…
In the last couple of weeks my lemon tree has been producing and I have been working to recreate his magical elixir. The recipe will be here later this week so be sure to return and check it out.
We said arrivederci to the family, feeling like we were leaving new friends. Antonio had shared his personal grief at the loss of his father, his dreams for the farm, his past experiences and some of his adventures as a young man growing up on the Amalfi Coast.
In the meantime I am still dreaming about the wonderful farm, the lifestyle and skills of Antonio’s Mama and family. I am in awe of their ability to produce and create such wonderful homemade delights as part of their weekly routine. Skills, recipes and techniques shared between the family for generations. Such a lovely way to live.
Have you eaten a meal where everything on the plate has been grown or made from scratch?
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