Slideshow: Snapshots from Italy: Making Scamorza, Ricotta, and Caciocavallo at a Cheese Factory in Molise

Cooking the Milk
Cooking the Milk
The cheese-makin' starts as the milk is heated to around 36-40°C, when the rennet is added.
Now It's Curds and Whey
Now It's Curds and Whey
The milk starts to separate.
Get Those Curds Out
Get Those Curds Out
The curds sink to the bottom of the cooking vat. They're hauled out...
Grinding It Up
Grinding It Up
Those curds are then ground finely...
And Draining
And Draining
... so that they're small, ragged pieces, which then drain.
Kneaded
Kneaded
It's now re-heated at about 93°C, where it becomes softer and more elastic; from there, it's dumped in this kneading contraption, which slaps it around until it's smooth and stretchy.
Pulling and Twisting
Pulling and Twisting
To make the small molded scamorza, bits of cheese are pulled up and twisted into small knot-like balls, about the size of a baseball.
Salt Bath
Salt Bath
These scamorza are cooled and then spend about 20 minutes in a salt bath...
Hanging Scamorza
Hanging Scamorza
... before they're hung and dried, for just a few days.
Caciocavallo
Caciocavallo
The much larger caciocavallo cheese requires a sizable roll of the white stuff.
Folding It Over
Folding It Over
The cheese is pulled into a slightly oblong round...
Smoothed Out
Smoothed Out
... and carefully shaped into a soft ball.
Pulling Out the Neck
Pulling Out the Neck
Stretching the caciocavallo for its distinctive neck.
Into the Bath
Into the Bath
Caciocavallo get a much longer salt bath than the scamorza: 12-24 hours (the exact length of time depends on the size).
Tied in Pairs
Tied in Pairs
The cheeses are hung in pairs, ropes around their necks (these things sort of look like small strangled penguins to me... though the Italian men showing us around were quick to offer up more colorful comparisons).
Strung Up
Strung Up
Served!
Served!
While young caciocavallo tastes essentially like a good provolone, older ones take on the nuttier, aged character you'd associate with Parmesan or Gouda.
Ricotta
Ricotta
All fresh cheese factories turn out ricotta and mozzarella, too.
Cowbell
Cowbell
The di Nucci family used to follow herds of cattle as they roamed wild; they only really settled down in the 20th century.
(More Cowbell)
(More Cowbell)
The Raw Material
The Raw Material
The Caseificio di Nucci gets its milk from 19 farms in the area, all of them basically within sight of their production facility in Agnone, a hilltop town with spectacular views of the surrounding areas.