Malga cheeses: what they are and how to choose them

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Robert Maurer
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Take advantage of a mountain walk for visit the huts and make precious purchases. From June to September, many farmers bring the animals (cattle, but also sheep and goats) to high altitude to let them live outdoors and eat fresh herbs and essences. Like this their milk becomes tastier, full of floral notes, and allows to obtain tastier and more valuable cheeses.

But which ones to choose to guarantee maximum taste and safety? «To be sure of buying a product that meets strict criteria regarding raw material, processing and seasoning, I recommend to focus on DOP brand variety (many consortia have also specifically regulated the “mountain pasture” variant) », he explains Giorgio Donegani, food technologist.




Check first, then buy

The most delicate phase of the production of mountain cheeses (as regards hygienic safety) it is that of maturation. If you are planning to go home with some delicacies follow the rules suggested by our expert.

"Ask to being able to visit the premises where the seasoning takes place: the shapes on display must not be swollen or characterized by spots of different colors », says Donegani. "Be careful, too, in the presence of obvious cracks: the fractures on the crust make the pasta dry ».

It is easier to identify problems for fresh cheeses. «This is the typical offer of mountain pastures and, in this case, the risks decrease because the defects are immediately very evident: the rind must be uniform, without mold, the paste soft, of a light color, tending to yellow, with a flavor that is very reminiscent of milk, without acidity».


Below you will find some of the excellence of the country in the field of mountain cheeses. .


Montasio Dop

It is typical of the Friuli plateau of the same name, at the foot of the Julian Alps, and is characterized by a homogeneous hole. If eaten fresh, after 60 days of aging, it has a compact consistency and a color tending to straw yellow. As aging increases, the paste becomes more crumbly and grainy and the flavor more aromatic. The milk with which it is produced is raw, that is, it has not been subjected to heat treatments (cheeseomontasio. Net).

Montasio is one of the indispensable ingredients for Friulian frico (a traditional second dish that looks like an omelette made with potatoes, onions, eggs).

Fontina Dop

There are about 200 mountain pastures where Fontina Dop from mountain pastures are created, with whole, raw milk, coming from a single milking of exclusively Valle d'Aosta cows (red spotted, black spotted or brown). It is a cheese rich in calcium and phosphorus. It is aged in warehouses with at least 90% humidity, between 5 and 12 ° C, for at least 80 days. The pasta has small round eyelets and, if fresh, has an intense yellow color, a sweet taste and a fragrant aroma, which is accentuated with aging .

The classic fondue is prepared with Fontina.

Castelmagno Dop

It is produced in the Cuneo area with raw cow's milk to which a maximum 20% of sheep or goat milk can be added, always not heat treated. It matures for at least 60 days on wooden boards, in natural caves, developing a unique flavor. It has a semi-hard, compact texture, a pearly color, with blue veins if a little more seasoned, and a wrinkled, brown rind. .


In Piedmont it appears in the recipe for risotto, paired, for example, with hazelnuts.



Bitto Dop

Of Celtic origin, it was born in the mountain pastures of the province of Sondrio and in some of those in the areas of Lecco and Bergamo. It is based on whole cow's milk (and possibly goat's milk, for a maximum of 10%) both raw. It matures for at least 70 days and has a white to straw-yellow paste with a compact structure and few holes. With aging, which can last up to 10 years, the sweet, delicate flavor becomes stronger and more persistent (valtellinachegusto.eu).


Bitto gives personality to the Valtellina pizzoccheri recipe.

Asiago Dop

Made from pure cow's milk (raw or pasteurized) it is the traditional cheese of the Asiago plateau (Vicenza). If produced in the malga, above 600 meters, and eaten fresh, it has a milky, slightly floral scent, a yellow hue, a sweet taste. It has always been aged on spruce boards. The minimum seasoning is 30 days, but you can also buy the precious Stravecchio, 2 years old. In this case it becomes harder, darker and has an intense flavor (asiagocheese. It).

The ideal pairing is with polenta.


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