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Calabrian Kittens, Ricotta, and a Goat Named Su

I turn into a little girl when I see a herd of sheep or goats munching grass on the side of the road. So you can only imagine the shrill "EEEEEE!" I emitted when Fra asked me if I wanted to watch his friend Anna make ricotta and meet her flock.

Then I found out we had to get up and out the door by 7. [cue record scratch.]

Still, somehow I dragged myself out of bed, and I'm glad I did.

A Cheesemaker's Work is Never Done

When we arrived at the farm, rubbing the sleep from our eyes, Anna's teenage son greeted us. We asked what time he had woken up and he said 4 a.m!

He had been hard at work, alongside his parents and sister, milking and feeding their flock of 100+ sheep and goats and starting to make cheese. This is what they do every day. Because animals don't take a vacation, and neither do their owners.

The four were finishing up a few rounds of pecorino cheese (made from sheep's milk). I watched in awe as they dragged up masses of white goodness from the bottom of a large vat. They manipulated it on a stainless steel table to drain the water, then they put the cheese in round containers to age a few weeks.

Cheese for Breakfast? Yes Please!

After the pecorino, it was time to make the ricotta. Now, in the U.S., I'd never been impressed with this bland, soft cheese. But in Calabria, ricotta is in a world of its own. It's slightly salty and soft. It's great in pasta, on bread, or just on a spoon in your mouth!

Anna and Salvatore are one of very few cheesemakers to still use these...I don't know what you would call them...cheese formers? made of twigs. Most producers use plastic, but there's something beautiful about them holding on to this tradition.

After the work slowed a little, they offered us fresh hot ricotta mixed with bread, called impanata. It was a simple but filling and delicious breakfast.

Here a Sheep, There a Goat

After our cheesemaking demonstration, the daughter, Aurora, accompanied us around the farm. I'm a sucker for kittens, and I found my fill. The great thing about Calabria is that there are kittens everywhere, so I can cuddle them and get my fix without wanting to add yet another cat to my menagerie at home!

The neighboring farm had a lovely horse who came to greet us. And we met two cows, a pig, chickens and a turkey, and then...the piece di resistance! The goats and sheep!

The sheep were shy and hid in the other room but the goats were full of curiosity about us. A few nibbled my hand and I said it was because they'd never tasted an American before!

A few of us tried our hand at milking a goat. It was a strange experience. But I loved every minute of petting them and talking to them!

Aurora offered to name one of the goats after me! We picked out a brown and black young goat that didn't yet have a name. I have no idea if the name stuck or not, but I was honored to share my name with a goat!

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More fun and interesting experiences! Good for you!

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