TRADITION, HEALTH, TASTE: IT'S ITALIAN
With more than 400 dairy creations, Italian cheese production has the richest varieties in the world. The various Italian cheese production have in common passion and high quality. The taste of Italian cheeses is unique and worldwide, Italy can boast about the quality, variety and history of milk products. Cheeses can be classified by consistency (hard or soft), milk origin (cow, sheep, goat, buffalo) and treatment (thermalisation, pasteurization or seasoning). Soft cheeses, such as Gorgonzola and Stracchino, are characterized by a high humidity of dough (between 45 and 70%) and they can be also seasoned for a short time such as the Taleggio. Fresh cheeses, such as Mascarpone, Mozzarella, Primo Sale and many others, have a delicate taste, white color and soft consistency. Semi-hard cheeses, such as Provolone and Pecorino, have obviously a greater consistency compared to the soft ones: the humidity of the dough is between 35 and 45%. Their consistency and marked taste are due to the seasoning process. Cheeses like Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano are classified as “hard”, due to the long seasoning and strong flavors that they gain during this process.
The Italian history of cheese is as rich as the variety of the Italian production of cheese is. It is part of both North and South Italian traditional food production. Perhaps Italy is even the birthplace of cheese itself. The Romans loved making and eating cheese: in the Imperial Rome, the sheep’s milk Pecorino Romano cheese was prized at banquets, while its long-term storage capacity made it a staple food for rations when the Roman legions marched. In the Middle Age, many monasteries throughout Italy were hubs of cheese-making excellence. Nearly 1000 years ago, the Cistercian monks from the Po Valle in Northern Italy, developed an original recipe to use the milk excess: due to its grainy structure, so different from all other cheeses, it was given the name “Grana”, now known as Grana Padano. Part of Italian dairy tradition is Parmigiano Reggiano: its documented origins date back to the 13th century. In 1861 the unification of Italy made it possible to overcome the barriers between the various areas of the peninsula: the production of cheese increased.
Clearly Italy has a great variety of cheeses, which ranges from fresh, mild delicacies like mozzarella, to hard, aged cheeses with more mature flavors, such as Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano. As a matter of fact, any given cheese taste is the result of a number of factors. First and most important is naturally the type of milk used. Asiago is made with cow’s milk, Pecorino Romano comes from sheep’s milk, Mozzarella di Bufala from buffalo’s milk. What else? The place where the cheese is produced, the season during which it is produced, and how long it is aged are also major determinants of flavor. With regards to aging, the longer a cheese ages, the saltier and sharper it becomes. The process of transforming milk into cheese and its packaging can be subdivided into several phases, some of which are common to all types of cheese, others very specific for each kind of cheese. The key points of the cheese making process are milk coagulation and the separation of the aqueous phase (“syneresis”). The first phase includes all preliminary coagulation operations concerning the preparation of milk to be worked in a boiler. The second phase involves the coagulation of milk and the obtention of a gel with the specific desired consistency. The third phase concerns the syneresis and includes all the operations leading to the obtention of the right composition of the curd and in particular the most suitable moisture value, in order to absorb the right amount of salt and lay the biochemical basis for the next stage to proceed smoothly. The fourth phase is the seasoning, in which the curd is transformed into real cheese. The fifth and last stage includes the operations related to the packaging of the cheeses, preceded where necessary by spawning operations, portioning or grating.
Source: “Libro Bianco sul latte e i prodotti lattiero caseari” Assolatte
Cheese is a true concentrate of nutrients: proteins, minerals, vitamins and fats. Compared to milk, the amount of proteins contained in cheese is considerably higher: if 125 grams of partially skimmed milk contain 3.15% of proteins, 100 grams of cheese provides ten times more. It’s healthy and ideal to consume an adequate amount of cheese regularly to provide your body with the right amount of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and sodium. Calcium, in particular, is essential for the body: it helps to keep bones and teeth healthy as well as regulating blood clotting. The presence of phosphorus is also very useful: it binds calcium, which regulates its metabolism in an appropriate way. Cheese contains various vitamins such as A, B2 and B12, which provide about 30% of the daily needs of an adult. Cheese fats also play an important role, and the fear of them is unfounded. Many studies in the last thirty years have shown that milk derivatives also have an anti-obesogenic function. Moreover, saturated fats contained in cheese do not increase any risk for the cardiovascular system. It’s advisable to eat an average of 70-100 grams of cheese every day to take advantage of all its positive aspects.
Source: Assolatte.it – Associazione Italiana Lattiero Casearia
- The name of the famous Italian cheese Stracchino, comes from the adjective “stracco”, that is to say “stanco”, which in Italian means “tired”: this because – back in Roman times – in the Lombardy region it was quite common for cow herders to move between the Alpine pasture and the southern lowlands according to the season, the so called transhumance. The cows would need to be milked at different stations along the way and herders soon came to realize that after a long march, the tired or “stanco” cows would produce a different, more flavorful milk.
- The word mozzarella, perhaps the most famous cheese in the world, comes from the verb “mozzare” (to cut off), referring to the manual cut of spun cheese by compressing it between forefinger and the thumb.
- By law and tradition, Gorgonzola cheese production is allowed in only some provinces of two Italian regions: Lombardy and Piedmont. Gorgonzola cheese was the result of a necessity to store the excess milk. The blueing of the Gorgonzola occurs naturally, the mold was typical of the region and of the caves of Valsassina where the cheeses were aged. Today, the bulk of the cheeses are pierced with needles to encourage the growth of the mold Penicillium roquefortii.