The demand for high-quality, authentic Italian food in the UAE is on the rise, and with it comes a whole new listing of Italian eateries who pride themselves on using the finest of ingredients available.
One such restaurant is Per Te. I just can’t seem to rave enough about Chef Glady’s immaculate Italian creations, and last Saturday morning, he was sweet enough to take me to his goldmine for Italian cheeses; Italian Dairy Products.
Owned and operated by the very enthusiastic Mr. Leo Condemi who is an Italian national himself, Italian Dairy Products is located in Hamriyah Free Zone (Phase 2), Sharjah and is the only supplier of freshly made buffalo cheese in the UAE.
Before entering the cheese manufacturing premises, we were given lab coats, shower caps, and disposable mittens for our shoes. Thank-goodness I was wearing flats! The floors of a cheese factory are super slippery.
Cheesy Fact #1: Italian Dairy Products uses over 30,000 litres of water a day! The water used is pasteurized via UV lamps and runs through a special carbon filter.
I was accompanied around the Italian Dairy Products plant by the Per Te staff including Chef Glady, Mr. Leo Condemi (the owner of the brand), and Italian Pizza Chef Michele Alioto (he is wearing a lab coat that reads ‘Muhammed’! We had a laugh about how it can be his new UAE name).
Mr. Leo was our tour guide for the morning, and here he is showing us an endless freezer of milk. Italian Dairy Products sources fresh milk from Al Ain dairies, and also imports freeze-dried processed milk from Germany.
Cheesy Fact #2: Fresh local milk costs far more than imported German milk. The later is used for mass-produced, lower cost cheeses.
And this is what solid milk looks like:
Cheesy Fact #3: Milk is pasteurized at 72 degrees.
Solid milk is cooked to create ricotta cheese.
Cheesy Fact #4: Interestingly, ‘cotta’ translates to ‘cook’ in Italian, and ‘ricotta’ means to ‘re-cook’. I’ve learnt some Italian!
Here is a huge cauldron of ricotta being cooked:
The final product is fresh, amazingly soft ricotta cheese. Mr. Leo swears by its taste, and says the best Italian pasta is simply pasta tossed with ricotta and chopped tomatoes.
I enjoyed the very fresh, soft ricotta all on its own sans pasta. Delicious!
At Italian Dairy Products factory, there is a whole range of mozzarella cheeses being made.
Here is a video clip of the mozzarella machine:
It is spitting out 100 gram balls of mozzarella, and the mold sizes can be changed to accommodate to different sized cheese (from 500 grams to 50!).
Mozarella is also made into loaves for use on pizza.
Unlike the mozzarella balls which have a ready-salted base, the loaves are made without any salt, and left to soak in the saline from a tub of salted water.
The final saltiness factor is similar, but the loaves have a more compact, denser texture making them ideal for grating onto pizza.
Scamorza is an Italian cheese that is very similar to is more famous counterpart, the mozzarella.
When not compressed, mozarella cheese is incredibly stretchy! Just have a look at all the fun this staff member is having:
The stretched out cheese is braided into Nodini, Treccie e Sfoglia, a pretty Italian mozzarella perfect for presenting on a cheeseboard. It is also formed into balls that are left to mature in its own whey, and then packed in a saline solution that acts as a natural preservative.
At Italian Dairy Products, two kinds of Scamorza cheeses are made. One with buffalo milk, and one with fresh cow’s milk. Both types of milk lend a very different texture to the end result. As you can see below, the Scamorza made with buffalo milk on the left is more spongy and has a creamy, uneven texture. The one with cow’s milk is denser and just a tad bit more chewy.
Cheesy Fact #5: Buffalo milk has twice the amount of fat as compared to regular cow’s milk! 1,000 litres of regular cow’s milk produces 120 kg of mozzarella cheese, whereas you can get 150 kg with the same yield of buffalo’s milk.
Italian Dairy Products is the only manufacturer of buffalo milk cheeses in the UAE!
They are also coming up with a smoked version of the Scamorza cheese, and I am intrigued to see how that will taste.
Burrata is an Italian delicacy. It is essentially a ball of mozzarella cheese that has been stuffed with mozzarella and cream.
Cheesy Fact #6: The stuffing inside a Burrata is called Stracciatella. This is made with a combination of shredded mozzarella and fresh cream, and can also be used on its own as a decadent base for many Italian recipes.
Burrata is hand-made at Italian Dairy Products. Have a look at the video showcasing the highly efficient staff at work!
Burrata by far is my favorite Italian cheese. I love the contrast of its harder, denser layer to its soft creamy interior. Calories galore; I wonder how the Italians manage to stay so slim.
Buy Italian Cheese in the UAE
The good news is that Italian Dairy Products cheeses are not restricted to the kitchens of chefs. You too can satisfy your craving for high-quality Italian cheese that is made fresh locally. Italian Dairy Products goods are sold in all leading supermarkets including Carrefour and Ripe Market. Look out for their cutesy cow logo adorned with the Italian flag.
My tour of the Italian Dairy Products factory opened my eyes on the whole story behind cheese. There is an art and technique to be appreciated.
We were accompanied on the tour with Chef Michele Alioto, an Italian Pizza chef who really knows his cheese, and he made a joke about how many children think all the grocery produce is actually born in the supermarket. I hope to take my daughter on a cheese tour next time round, and hopefully she will appreciate all the hard work that goes into making her daily sandwich.