10.09.2014. Best of the Coast
Dairy herds are not something we readily associate with the Costiera Amalfitana. But up above the coast, in the wide upland valleys of Agerola and Tramonti, and on the other side of the peninsula around Vico Equense and Seiano, there is a long tradition of cheese made from free-range cattle, sheep and goats. This is the homeland of fior di latte – that light version of mozzarella much prized by Neapolitan pizzaioli.
One of the oldest of the area’s still-active caseifici, or cheese producers, is Fernando De Gennaro in Seiano, not far from Vico. At the age of fourteen, in the 1870s, the current owner’s great-grandfather Michele would take his own father’s butter and cheeses to Naples by sailing boat to sell them; from these modest origins, a family firm was born which is now into its sixth generation.
The story goes that the cheese young Michele would have been selling in the lanes and piazzas of Naples – the much-prized Provolone del Monaco – derived its name from itinerant hawkers like himself. To protect themselves from the cold during long winter journeys across the bay, these cheese sellers would wrap themselves in thick woollen cloaks, which gave them the appearance of wandering friars – hence ‘del Monaco’, or ‘of the monk’.
Today, De Gennaro uses only unpasteurised milk from seven selected local farms, and does not add acidifiers, preferring to let the cheese ferment naturally over 24 hours. It’s not a job for late-risers: Tommaso de Gennaro and his co-workers begin making the day’s fior di latte at 4am each morning, moving onto Provolone del Monaco two hours later. Seventy-five litres of milk go into one four-kilo, melon-shaped Provolone, which is hung up from the ceiling of a well-aired room to season for a minimum of six months. There’s also a smoked version, made according to a closely-guarded recipe.
Caseificio de Gennaro
via R. Bosco 956
Tel +39 081 8028185