Callu de Cabrettu: the oldest style of cheese?
Here we are:
We are in Sardinia, Italy, a region which could be home to the oldest style of cheese. According to locals, this is almost the forbearer of all cheeses and an authentic example of “paleogastronomy”.
Callu de cabrettu is probably one of the oldest forms of cheese and is made by taking the stomach of a baby goat kid with all its contents of mother’s milk, tying it closed, and hanging it to age until it naturally becomes cheese from the acids and rennet present in the stomach.
The goat needs to be hung not in direct sunlight, but somewhere warm enough, and with good ventilation so it will lose some moisture to evaporation. It is a very rare operation still carried out by a few Sardinian shepherds.
It can range from creamy when young to firm and crumbly if it has been hanging for a while.
All varieties have a distinctly flavor from the goat rennet but also tend to retain a lot of the characteristics of the original milk.
According to local customs, it is eaten sliced on bread (including the stomach walls) or sliced and fried in lard.
Traditionally, the paste, rich in enzymes, is also used as rennet in other milk. In the Sardinian language, literally translates as “kid rennet”.
They are most often made in the spring and this means lots of green grasses and wild flowers and herbs. The older varieties also have a spicy tang.
Some producers have taken to removing the stomach contents and adding in fresh milk in order to tone down the gaminess a bit, however, also with this method, the rennet, acid, and cultures are provided by what is naturally present in the stomach lining.