Or at least that’s the scuttlebut in some mascarpone-making circles. So it’s been claimed, lemon juice is the authentic way to go. I beg to differ about that. Mascarpone, as far as I understand it, was traditionally a summer cheese in Northern Italy. Lemons don’t ripen until autumn. Tartaric acid, on the other hand, would have been available all year round. Vinegar too, for that matter.
UPDATE: The ever vigilant (and multilingual) Jim Chevalier did a little digging in some Italian textbooks and found that while vinegar and lemon juice were used to make mascarpone as far back as 1845, the most common acid employed for the job was agra. This is acidic whey leftover from making ricotta. This actually answers another question I had about the name “mascarpone.” It is said to come from a word in the Lombardy dialect, “mascarpa”, which means “made from whey.” I couldn’t figure that out since it’s made from cream. Jim’s finding seems to explain everything. Thanks Jim!
UPDATE II: Reader Gerhard adds:
I am not 100% sure, but haven’t lemons, like other citrus-plants, constantly flowers *and* fruits? Like oranges, they are constantly flowering and having fruits of various degrees of ripeness at the same time. Which means… lemons all year round in Italy.