Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Milbenkäse and Casu Marzu


Milbenkäse ("mite cheese"), called Mellnkase in the local dialect and often known as Spinnenkäse ("spider cheese"), is a German specialty cheese. Today it is produced exclusively in the village of Würchwitz

Milbenkäse is flavoured with salt and caraway is shaped into small balls, cylinders or wheels, and dried. Then it is placed in a wooden box containing rye flour and inhabited by Tyroglyphus casei cheese mites for at least three months. The digestive juices of the mites diffuse into the cheese and cause fermentation; the flour is added because the mites would otherwise simply eat the whole cheese instead of just nibbling away at the crust as is desired. After one month, the cheese rind turns yellow, after three months reddish-brown. Some producers, however, allow the cheese to ripen for up to one year, until it has turned black. Mites clinging to the cheese rind are also consumed.

Casu Marzu:

Casu marzu (also called formaggio marcio, "rotten cheese") is a traditional Sardinian sheep milk cheese, notable for being riddled with live insect larvae. It is found mainly in Sardinia, Italy.

Derived from Pecorino, casu marzu goes beyond typical fermentation to a stage most would consider decomposition, brought about by the digestive action of the larvae of the cheese fly Piophila casei. These larvae are deliberately introduced to the cheese, promoting an advanced level of fermentation and breaking down of the cheese's fats. The texture of the cheese becomes very soft, with some liquid (called lagrima, from the Sardinian for "tears") seeping out. The larvae themselves appear as translucent white worms, about 8 millimetres. When disturbed, the larvae can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimetres. Some people clear the larvae from the cheese before consuming; others do not.

Casu marzu is considered to be unsafe to eat by Sardinian aficionados when the maggots in the cheese have died. Because of this, only cheese in which the maggots are still alive is usually eaten. Because the larvae in the cheese can launch themselves for distances up to 15 centimetres when disturbed, diners hold their hands above the sandwich to prevent the maggots from leaping. Those who do not wish to eat live maggots place the cheese in a sealed paper bag. The maggots, starved for oxygen, writhe and jump in the bag, creating a "pitter-patter" sound. When the sounds subside, the maggots are dead and the cheese can be eaten.

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