Firm explores reopening cheese plant along Airport Way
BY DENNIS WYATT
A firm seeking to produce artisan Irish cheeses is exploring with the City of Manteca reopening the shuttered cheese plant on Airport Way just north of Crothall Laundry and west of Del Webb at Woodbridge.
The plan — if it materializes — could have an on-site tasting and sales room similar to the Oakdale Cheese Company and the Hilmar Cheese Company.
Cheese has been produced in the past in Manteca. Besides the Airport Way location, there was a Kraft Cheese plant from the 1930s through 1950s that operated in the building on the northwest corner of South Main Street at Wetmore Avenue just across the tracks from downtown.
Speaking of cheese, here’s a bit of trivia. There is an Italian cheese named Manteca Podolia.
According to the Slow Food Foundation of Biodiversity, “Manteca is an ancient southern Italian dairy product, whose production was tied in the past to the necessity to preserve butter for the longest period possible in a way that its creamy and aromatic qualities were maintained until the moment of consumption. A special quality of the processing methods is the skill of those working with the dairy to extract the fat from ricotta with methods that have been passed down from father to son for centuries. The name of the cheese appears to come from the Spanish word for butter, “manteca” or “mantequilla.” (Yes, most go with manteca meaning lard in modern-day Spanish but check out Google Translate).
“At one time the cheese was made from Abruzzo to Calabria. Today, however, it is made in limited areas of Puglia, Campania and Calabria and across most of Basilicata.The cheese consists of a central nucleus of fat (butter) covered in a spun curd derived from the making of caciocavallo cheese. The residual whey is transferred into cauldrons and re-heated until the ‘first ricotta’ surfaces, which is placed into a cloth and left to rest for 18-24 hours. The following day the ricotta is worked with water, first hot and then cold, in a way that allows the fat to separate and harden. The butter is ‘beaten’ to get rid of any residual whey and then manipulated into spherical shapes. These are then coated with the spun curd in the classic pear shape.”