Fatto a mano, or, made by hand. This is something we pride ourselves in keeping alive. We make much of our specialties the slow, old way. One of these handmade products to which I hold very dearly is Scamorza. My father has made this by hand since as long as I could remember and it was very important that I learn myself. Many stores sell Scamorza, very few make their own. A lot of Italian delis and pork stores buy a cheap, mass produced replica of this delicious cheese usually made in Wisconsin, not even Italy! In case you never had it, try it and you will probably love it.
Scamorza is best described as a cheese somewhere between a drier Mozzarella and a fresher Caciocavallo. If it is new to you, Caciocavallo is a cheese that ranges in age from a younger 3 to 6 month form, or a drier, able to be grated, 1 year variety. We have 3 types in our store, one is a 4 to 6 month Sicilian Caciocavallo that is very similar to a provolone but with a smoother and more friendlier texture and taste. Also of this age, we sell a type from Naples which is similar but even sharper (also the only one that is made commercially in the shape similar to Scamorza), and finally, the older form we carry is a D.O.P cheese from Ragusa, Sicily, it is drier and sharper, enjoyable as a table cheese and phenomenal grated on top of many different pasta dishes. All different types are tied with rope just as they always have been and exactly why they got their name “Cheese on Horseback” since usually two forms were strung together and hung like saddles do.
Back to the subject at hand. Scamorza is handmade in the same “pasta filata” method as fresh Mozzarella. This is a method described in English as “spun paste” or a “stretched or pulled curd”. Its name is somewhat grim as it derives from “scamozza” which means “beheaded” in Italian basically due to the shape and the way it was originally hung around its “neck” to dry. We have a curd made for us which is drier and richer than Mozzarella curd which I heat and stretch carefully under extremely hot water and with much more salt. I have made many varieties over the years, but have settled to the simple 4 types: Plain, Black Peppercorn, Peperoncino, and Butter (this type is an entity all in its own and has many other names like “burrini” or “mantiche”). Sometimes I will form the Scamorza into a basket rather than in the “bell form” but mostly the original takes mainstage. Here are some pictures of me making our Scamorza:
Scamorza can be enjoyed in many different ways and in every stage of its “life”. Fresh, or young, it is very mild and great for eating on its own or with vegetables, bread, or olive oil (all 3 together is even better) but can also make any pizza or lasagna even better. Once it has created its trademark “skin” which is 100% edible, it can be grilled over an open flame or in a cast-iron pan. We have had MANY customers do this themselves. It is not easy to do but one of my favorite things in the world. The trick is that the grill or pan needs to be REALLY hot, in other words, if you think it is hot enough, wait 10 minutes more 🙂 or it will just melt everywhere, then cut it open, pair with Prosciutto or Coppa, drizzle on some good Extra Virgin and enjoy. But also, one can let theirs age either in the refrigerator or in their wine cellar to make it drier and sharper, after a few months you will have a nice sharp Caciocavallo cheese.