Paco Magsaysay did everything but slow down during the pandemic.
In September, Magsaysay proudly unveiled his new line of cheeses, after launching J&M Naughty and Nice Alcohol Infused Ice Creams and Arctic (a line of local and all-time favorite flavors he created for the food service industry) early this year.
Magsaysay’s evolution from ice cream churner to cheese maker comes as no surprise, given all the milk so generously produced daily by their family farms’ Holstein cows.
He traveled all over the Netherlands to educate himself in the art of making and appreciating cheese. Daring to be different, he opted to showcase southern-style Italian cheeses. Upholding his same principles when concocting new ice cream variants, Magsaysay is on a constant quest to bring to his customers something they haven’t experienced before and, as much as possible, something new, something that isn’t out there.
Curdy, creamy, milky
With rennet from Italy, the fresh cow’s milk is transformed into curdy, creamy, milky works of art using artisanal cheese-making techniques overseen by Carmen’s Best’s Sicilian cheese master.
Magsaysay finds his new venture exciting. Natural cheeses are never the same, as many factors affect the end product.
There are other cheeses aside from the Sicilian varieties that are crafted in his cheese lab. He is currently preoccupied with perfecting his gorgonzola, which he says is much more difficult to process and control. The bacteria in gorgonzola are quite aggressive!
He is also on the hunt for a proper name for his rendition of it, as gorgonzola can only be labeled such if it is made in designated regions of Italy.
Tuma is a semisoft five-day aged cheese, and it’s my favorite. It’s like curdy soft cheese that’s easy to eat even on its own. It is delectable with warm, freshly baked crusty bread. The refined white cheese is adorned with and made flavorful by black and green olives and a generous sprinkling of fresh flat-leaf parsley. Sometimes, it is capped with pistachios.
Simple yet satisfying
I enjoyed the tuma drizzled with late-harvest olive oil to give it a nice, grassy character. By leaving the tuma longer in the refrigerator, past its initial five- to seven-day aging period, you’ll have primo sale, a bright and milky cheese that’s slightly firmer and riper in flavor than the tuma.
The caciotta is a 10-day cured cheese. It has a pleasant chew, like a Bel Paese. So versatile and neutral is this cheese that it pairs pleasantly with just about anything—cured meats, jams and jellies, nuts and fruit both fresh and dried.
Cinnamon sugar ricotta is also a treat. This is on special offer when there is excess whey. It is simple yet satisfying. Partake of it just as the little kids in Italy do.
Though not a turophile (cheese connoisseur), Paco enjoys his cheese. “I usually have cheese for breakfast with bacon and sourdough bread, but I make sure to grill the cheese first. I could also have it with honey and crackers for merienda,” he said. “One night, I served some gorgonzola with rib eye steak—I can’t tell you how happy my taste buds were!”
The beauty of cheese, said Paco, is that it can be anything you want it to be. “The options are abundant and lip-smacking.”
How to enjoy ‘tuma’ and ‘caciotta’
In love with the tuma, I am sharing ways for your to serve it. This is how I prepare Paco’s tuma at home:
Baked tuma: Transfer the tuma onto a baking dish. Season with a little pepper and sea salt; drizzle with olive oil and bake till slightly melted. Serve with crackers or ciabatta or any crusty bread. Instead of baking, you may also slice and panfry with butter and olive oil. Delicious!
Tuma and mixed green salad: Arrange a bed of mixed greens and add cherry tomatoes, celery, onions, capers. Add some basil and parsley sprigs as well. Drain some good quality tuna and add that to the salad or put some thinly sliced salami or prosciutto. Put the tuma at the center and serve with your vinaigrette of choice. A honey balsamic dressing is delicious.
Tuma caprese: Slice salad tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Slice olive tuma and arrange over tomatoes. Cap with anchovies. Sprinkle with fresh oregano and basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Pistachio tuma with honey: Drizzle the pistachio tuma with good quality honey and serve with warm bread. You may also slice the tuma and panfry in butter. Drizzle with honey and serve with bread.
Bruschetta with mushroom, sausage and caciotta: Slice crusty bread, cap with sauteed mushrooms and cooked and crumbled Italian sausage. Top with a slice of caciotta and broil. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with parsley.
Grated caciotta makes a nice addition to pasta and risotto, too. INQ
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