World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a new cheese.
This week Valtellina Casera from Italy.
Country: Italy 🇮🇹
Region: Lombardy, Province of Sondrio
Made from: Cow’s milk
Texture: Semi-soft, elastic
Taste: Sweet, delicate, herbs, fruit
Certification: PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)
Aging: minimum 70 days
Valtellina Casera is a cheese made from semi-skimmed cows’ milk in the northern Italian province of Sondrio. Its origins date back to the sixteenth century and it is much used in the cuisine of the Valtellina: particularly in dishes based on buckwheat flour such as pizzoccheri and sciatt (toad(s) in Lombard language).
It has had Protected designation of origin (PDO) status under European Union law since 1996; its production is managed by the Consorzio Tutela Formaggi Valtellina Casera e Bitto and certification is regulated by CSQA of Thiene.
This is the alter ego of ‘Bitto’ cheese, produced mainly in the autumn, winter and spring months and made exclusively on the alpine pastures. It can be ripened with excellent results but it is often preferred fresh on its own or as an ingredient of traditional Valtellina recipes.
Valtellina Casera DOP is a high quality cheese, with mountain tastes and scents. Its particularity is due to the use of local materials, obtained from animals free to feed in the rich local pastures, which gives the cheese an intense and pleasant aroma.
The shape is cylindrical, quite short and flattened, with a flat lateral surface. The rind has a typical straw-yellow color, which becomes darker at the end of the maturation.
The taste of Valtellina Casera is special because of the presence of aromatic notes of mountain’s herbs and dried fruit. The taste is sweet, more delicate for the younger wheels, slightly intense for the older.
The production of Valtellina Casera DOP is strictly regulated. The milk’s collection and all the processes that lead to its production must take place in the province of Sondrio, in Lombardia.
Cow’s milk is left to stand for half a day and then skimmed. It is then coagulated, using calf’s rennet. The curd is then broken into little pieces, heated at a temperature of 43°C for 30 minutes. Once the granules have condensed together, they are wrapped in cotton cloths and moved to the typical “fascere” (cheese molds). The paste is pressed manually, in order to squeeze out the excess buttermilk. After not less than 12 hours, each mold is salted, dry or in brine. The cheese then undergoes at least 70 days of maturation.
Some manufacturers prefer to use the original maturation inside the traditional “casere”, which guarantees a good temperature and humidity. During seasoning, each shape is turned upside down many times, in order to avoid deposits of buttermilk.
Valtellina Casera has an ancient history, which is intertwined with the dairy tradition of the Alps in Lombardia. In particular, this important cheese is one of the protagonists of the diffusion of the social and shifting dairies of the Sixteenth century. In this period, the breeders started to meet inside the first cooperatives. Milk was transported every day to these cooperatives, where it was processed all together. During the centuries, this system grew, evolving and adapting to technology, until it started to dominate even the modern dairy scene.
Valtellina Casera took its name, in addition to the place of origin, from the ancient “casere”, particular locales in which cheeses where left to season.
How to enjoy it
Valtellina Casera is perfect to be consumed on its own and in many recipes. It can be enjoyed alone or with some rustic bread, as Pane di Altamura DOP or the typical rye bread of these lands.
Inside the regional cooking of Lombardia, Valtellina Casera is often mentioned as an ingredient for many recipes. For example, we can find it in the “pizzoccheri” from Valtellina, some tagliatelle with buckwheat, or “sciatt” or “chiscioi”, a kind of pancake with a heart of melted Valtellina Casera. Alternatively, it can be used in a good risotto, maybe adding some grated Parmigiano Reggiano DOP.
Valtellina Casera goes best with full red wines , with fruity notes. Among the local products, it goes particularly well with Sforzato di Valtellina or “Sfursat” DOCG, and also Rosso di Valtellina DOC, both made from Nebbiolo grapes.
Source: Wikipedia, We Are Italy, foodexplore.com, guffantiformaggi.com, vivino.com