The Life of Png: A day in the life of the city’s newest cheesemaker

This spring, Reading Terminal Market welcomed its first city creamery, Valley Shepherd, located just past Iovine Brothers, across from Molly Malloy’s. Market shoppers can stop by the window and watch cheese being made while they wait for their sandwich order from MeltKraft, a sandwich stand connected to the creamery that uses all local cheeses. Six days a week, you’ll see Jamie Png (pronounced "puhng") behind the glass, making mozzarella and sometimes cheddar. Here’s what her typical day looks like.

At 9 a.m., Png arrives at the Market—her commute is just a few blocks. After putting on her smock, she sanitizes the “make room.” Using a chitarra (which means “guitar” in Italian), she cuts curds for mozzarella, then stirs in warm water to soften them. Slowly, she pulls the warm curd. “If you stretch it too violently, it will tear,” she says. When the curd is stretchy, she begins to make a braid. On Saturdays, Png makes about 42 pounds of mozzarella.

After a quick brine, Png’s still-warm mozzarella is ready for sandwiches. When the lunch rush begins, she disappears into the cheese cave in the basement of the Terminal and checks the rinds on her cheddar. She selects a four-month-old to bring upstairs, where she takes a core and has the staff sample it. On this particular day, Rick Nichols, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer, stops by for a taste.

Once the lunch rush is over, Jamie returns to the make room to start a second batch of mozzarella. Although a little too much of her day is spent washing dishes, seeing a steady stream of Reading Terminal shoppers enjoying sandwiches made with her mozzarella helps make it all worthwhile.

Tenaya Darlington blogs about cheese at madamefromageblog.com. Her new book, Di Bruno Bros. House of Cheese: A Guide to Wedges, Recipes, and Pairings, is out this summer.