Facebook Cheese Study Group takes a look at Italian style cheeses on Tuesdays presented by ACS CCP® Allin Tallmadge. Here is his deep dive into one of my favorite Italian cheeses:
So under valued in the US but what an amazing cheese! A great melter, good in grilled cheese or paninis, wonderful in sauces, delicious as a topping, and, of course, a fabulous table cheese to snack on. It embodies the whole of Italian cucina.
But first the facts:
An Alpine cheese produced on the Asiago Plateau in four provinces of northeastern Italy: the entire area of Vicenza and Trento and parts of Padua and Treviso.
Milk is for Swiss Brown and Pezzata Nera cows raised and pastured above 2000 ft.
Two type are produced:
Asiago Pressato (also called Asiago Fresco or Dolce) is softer with a higher moisture content, matured for a minimum of 20 days.
Asiago d’Allevo is a harder more flavorful used as a table cheese or grated ingredient. It is matured and marketed in three stages: Mezzano (4-6 months), Vecchio (>10 months), and Stravecchio (>15 months.)
Wheels are 12-16 inches (30-40 cm) in diameter ~6 inches (15 cm) high weighing 24-33 lbs (11-15 kg).
Each version has a slightly different make process to arrive at the final wheel.
For Pressato the curds cut to nut size then cooked to 113° F (45° C). Curds are poured into moulds, salted, and pressed. They are then marked and set to drain for 2 -3 days. After draining they are set in a brine bath to cure for 2 days then removed to rest and mature for 20-40 days.
For Allevo whole and skimmed raw milk is used. The curd is cut smaller to grain size and cooked twice: to 104° F (40° C) and stirred to extracted more whey and then heated to 117° F (47° C) to form a mass. The formed curd is removed to a draining table, cut into pieces, salted and turned several times. The curds are gathered and pressed into moulds to be shaped and marked. After 2 days the wheels are salted, either by dry salting or brine bath, then left to mature under controlled temperature and humidity.
Because Asiago is so versatile and flavorful for eating and flavoring it has traveled well to cheese making regions throughout the world. So much so that by the mid-20 Century the Italian Asiago cheese makers began to be concerned about their cheeses being copied. After World War II American cheese makers began to produce European cheeses whose production had suffer from the war. Asiago joined the list of FDA defined cheeses along side Swiss, Havarti, and Muenster. In 1978 Asiago was given DOC status and in 1979 Asiago cheese makers formed a Consortium to protect their cheese.
In the early 21 century there is a growing movement by the European Union to extend protection for its cheese around the world. In the case of cheeses like Asiago and Parmigiana Reggiano produced outside of Italy taste different from the Italian originals. Some are decidedly inferior; some taste good but different. Today in Wisconsin alone the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board lists 40 companies that offer Asiago.
An Asiago cheese has been produce in the high plateau region since the first century. These first cheeses were made from ewe’s milk the regions dominant dairy animal. In the 1500’s bovine dairy culture grow and cheese making began to switch from sheep to cow milk. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that cow milk completely replaced sheep milk.
The dominance of bovine dairy moved to lower pastures and the region of cheese making expanded to the Plateau foothills and surrounding high plains. It subsequently spread down to the plains of the surrounding provinces.
In the nineteen twenties the production of a new kind of Asiago cheese with a shorter maturation time began. It was known as Asiago Pressato because the forms produced underwent pressing using manual or hydraulic presses. This cheese appealed to the tastes of the modern consumer who favored soft sweet flavors and its brief maturation time appealed to markets needed product.
Our Facebook Cheese Study Group is raising funds to send worthy ACS CCP exam® candidates and ACS CCPs® who want to attend the 2017 ACS Conference in Denver, Cheese With Altitude. You can apply for a scholarship by clicking hereand you can contribute to the scholarship fund by clicking here. All monies raised (withe the exception of the fees charged by GoFundMe) go to the winners of the scholarship. everyone involved in the scholarship efforts is donating their time and receiving NO fees or monetary compensation… just the feeling of helping those who need our help. Complete rules and information can be found here.