Alchemy of cheeses
The refiner's craft
It is a journey that starts with a careful selection of a cheese. This is an important and delicate moment because this is the first step towards what we have imagined and what we wish to obtain.
Then experience and skill will allow its taste to be modified and enhanced through natural techniques, choosing ripening places with a particular microclimate-such as caves or cells-or ripening the cheese wrapped in olive leaves or other ingredients.
Perseverance is the fundamental characteristic of a true affineur, combined with special care and the joy of research.
These experiments have led to the creation of cheeses with surprising aromas and textures, which have won the palates of both tasters and curious people in search of new flavors and sensations.
Refined, flavored, perfected
From our perspective, evolving techniques and new ways of thinking about cheese lead to further reflection on how to identify, classify, and name them.
When a cheese is placed in a special environmental condition (cellars, caves or other), with different humidity and temperatures, in containers or natural supporting materials (terracotta, barriques, wood, etc.), and subjected to treatments during the maturation phase or even the addition of one or more ingredients (leaves, herbs or other), which promote a kind of fermentation or evolution to such an extent that the final organoleptic result is substantially different from the starting product, we can speak of aging.
The flavored cheeses
It is correct to use the definition flavored cheese, when to a particular cheese, one or more ingredients are added, which obviously characterize its taste, but without any extension of maturation or fermentation process, therefore without generating a substantial structural change in it.
The perfected cheeses
In recent years, a new type of cheeses that do not yet have a proper definition, but could easily be called elaborates, has become increasingly popular.
Their characteristic feature is that they are so much characterized by the processing to which they are subjected, that they almost no longer look like cheeses but like gastronomic preparations or in some cases real desserts.
Think of all those cheeses that, for example, are covered with chocolate, or to which ingredients are added that give them a visual and organoleptic connotation totally different from the original one.
De' Magi is the story of a passion, that of Andrea Magi, the alchemist affineur
“I like the term alchemist as a description of my work, because it is my desire to experiment and test, enjoy myself by thinking up new ageing methods, maybe try to age the cheese with rosemary or laurel. I want to try many times and to see what the result will be. Maybe a small production, but each time trying to do something new so as to surprise those who will want to taste not only pecorinos, but unique pieces made to be tasted and enjoyed. The work of searching for the best pairing, that is to taste that particular pecorino with a specific pairing off, always falls within the alchemist theme.
A chemistry is created by combining two components that give a different result in the mouth than if the individual products were tasted separately.
This is alchemy!”
Alchemy is not science, it is not math. For Andrea, it is a subtle play between cheese, nature’s ingredients and the human hand. The affineur chooses flavors and aromas to create cheeses that are always different, new and surprising. It takes intuition and instinct, combined with experience and knowledge. It is also important to be very patient, to control and care for one’s creatures until they take on the desired smell and aroma.
It is difficult to explain a passion; you can only taste it.
Behind the Scenes and Secrets
It often happens that we will mature the cheese directly in our premises, other times we take it to a special “nurse” company, a specialized company that supports the process with proper techniques, space and microclimate. And the flavor changes. Cheese from the same production batch assumes a completely different flavor, depending on if it was aged in a cave, in a cellar or rather under the vinasse (residue) of vin santo or wrapped in olive leaves. These transitions are necessary to obtain an excellent finished product. The real ones, obviously, not the chemical solutions that are used by those who by profession inebriate the cheese.
Cheese is my great passion. I personally curate its aging stages, sometimes experimenting with creative solutions. Of course, each time is a risk, a thrill and the taste of discovery is wonderful.