ITALIAN TUESDAY Presented by ACS CCP® Allin Tallmadge
Wow, what a cheese! This cheese is right up there in the Italian Cucina with Grana, Pecorino and Gorgonzola. Used in many traditional and regional recipes it melts well into sauces and fillings, is favored as a table cheese, and is an excellent pairing with red wines. It is used all over in northern Italy but is a regional favorite of the Po Valley north to Veneto and Friuli. Cheese markets usually carry wheels of three to four different ages to satisfy the palates of their customers.
Montasio is a cheese that has been around since the 13th century originating in the valleys of the Julian and Carnic Alps. It was traditionally made by local Bendictine monks living in the Moggio abbey, located at the top of the Carnic Alps. Originally, the cheese was called Carnia, named after the area of production. The convent where the production techniques of local cheesemakers were likely developed and refined is located in Moggio Udinese (on the north slope of the Jof di Montasio peak) and is now used by nuns from the Poor Clares order.
The first documents that explicitly mention “Montasio Cheese” are price lists from the city of San Daniele dating back to 1775, which set the price of Montasio considerably higher than that of other cheeses. Ever since, Montasio has always been mentioned in trading documents from north-east Italy. Montasio production techniques quickly spread through the valleys of Carnia and in the Friuli-Veneto plain.
The area where Montasio cheese is produced is defined as follows:
– Friuli Venezia Giulia: the whole of the provinces of Udine, Pordenone, Gorizia and Trieste:
– Veneto: the whole of the provinces of Treviso and Belluno and parts of the provinces of Venice and Padua.
The milk used to make the cheese comes from three different bovine races: Friesian, Swiss Brown and Pezzata Rossa. The cows are raised according to the rules of the Montasio Cheese Consortium.
The cheese is made with milk from two milkings, mixed with veal rennet. The curd is broken into pieces the size of rice grains and is cooked at 115°F. The mass of cheese in then removed from the whey and place in molds, with the Montasio label. The cheese is then pressed and either rubbed with salt or a wet salt cure. Montasio is aged according to its use. it is available in three varieties:
– Fresco (fresh), which has been aged between 60 and 120 days
– Mezzano (semi-aged), which has been aged between 5 and 10 months
– Vecchio or Stagionato (aged), which has been aged over 10 months.
Montasio’s flavour profile changes according to the degree of aging. When eaten fresh, it has a mild, creamy flavour which recalls that of the milk with which it was produced; Montasio Mezzano has a deeper, fuller flavour, while Montasio Stagionato is intensely flavoured with a hint of sharpness, perfect for consumers who prefer big, bold tastes.
Montasio’s paste is characteristically uniformly peppered with small holes (“eyes”), all of the same shape and shiny on the inside (“partridge eyes”). Fresh Montasio has a smooth, elastic, and compact light brown rind, with a firm white or straw-yellow paste. As the cheese ages, the rind becomes drier and the paste granular and crumbly.
Montasio can be identified by marking of origin – the caption “Montasio” written diagonally on the side. Montasio that has been aged for more that 100 days and is free from all imperfections is fire branded by the Consortium’s commission with an additional mark of quality. The side also indicates the date of production and the producer’s identification code.
◦ The area of production
◦ Montasio’s characteristics
◦ Production techniques
Congratulations to our 2017 ACS CCP Exam and Conference Winners: Kelley Jewell, Tyler Frankenberg, ACS CCP® Hazel-Rue Woodies and ACS CCP® Matt Bellingham. Thanks to the generous donations from cheese lovers everywhere, we are thrilled to send these four worthy recipients to Denver this July!!! You can read all the details here.