Besides cheese, travelling is what makes us most happy – and the best travels are those that include at least one visit to a cheesemaker. On our recent trip to Trieste, we found a wonderful cheesemaker just a 20 minute drive outside of town in the Karst region, right at the Slovenian border.
Caseificio Zidarič started their adventure about 18 years ago when Sandra and Dario took over the then-abandoned barn near the little village of Prepotto.
Historically farmers of the Karst region sold their milk in the city; it was not until the mid 1970s that a dairy opened at the location that is now owned by the Zidarič family. The Zidaričs began with the traditional way of producing and selling milk but soon decided to revitalize the cheese making.
Now they make *Tabor* which one can get in 2 month, 6 month, 1 year, and 2 year old versions, diverse *Caciotte*, *Mlet*, washed rind *maGma*, and their signature cheese *Jamar* (available in a 10-12 month as well as a 18-20 month version). But of course, also Yoghurt and Ricotta can be found.
All cheeses are natural (with grafted lactic acid bacteria) and made with raw milk from their 80 Holstein-Friesian cows (about 30 of which are in milking). The cows are only fed with forage from the Karst region, where herbal meadows grow uncultivated and give the milk its distinctive flavor.
Whereas *Tabor* is typical to the Triestine area, *Jamar* is Sandra and Dario´s very own invention, with which they sought to create a cheese that respects and reflects the area alike.
“Jama” means cave in Slovenian and *Jamar* indeed ages 70m (!) underground in a cave where the cheese finds perfect conditions with stable temperatures around 12°C and a humidity of about 90%. Sandra explained that making *Jamar* is quite a long process. The cheese is only made on Fridays, set in big vessels with the curd for days before it gets cut again, salted, and put in its molds.
Before *Jamar* moves into the caves it ages for 4 months in a ripening room; for travel is put into nets (that later are hung up in the caves), then stuck into pipes and slowly let down into the red underground world. Here it stays for another 4-5 months and about every three weeks the brave cheesemakers in climbing harnesses check on its condition.
Once back above ground, *Jamar* rests for another month to dry and get brushed, polished, and made ready for consumption. The humidity of the caves, the natural molds, and the scent of earth and rock give *Jamar* a special smell and taste of which Gustav and I could certainly not get enough.
On the nose *Jamar* feels like an acidic salt mine and delivers hints of cooked butter, cut grass and a peppery potato in midst a meaty broth.
Soft and crumbly on the bite *Jamar* has a long lasting crumbly melt. Gustav rates our italian cave guest a high 12/10 for his adventurous taste- and whirly scent profile.
We combined it with a sippy gin that manages to withstand the sharpness and nicely brings out the buttery side of *Jamar*.
When in the area – stop by and try for yourself.
Caseificio Zidarič has a vending point that is open four times a week. Other than that, you can find their products in restaurants, speciality shops, and agriturismi in and around Trieste.