Valtellina has always been a land dedicated to the realization of some of the most famous foods in the entire enogastronomic scenery in Europe. Among the typical cheeses of Sondrio, in addition to the famous Bitto, there is also Valtellina Casera, considered as national excellences, so that they obtained the Protected Designation of Origin. In particular, Valtellina Casera is a cow’s cheese obtained only from local semi-skimmed milk, which is processed still today following the traditional alpine methods. Since 1995, the name of this important cheese is protected by the Consorzio per la Tutela dei Formaggi Valtellina Casera e Bitto.
History and curiosities
Valtellina Casera has an ancient story, which is intertwined with the dairy tradition of 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, in fact, the breeders started to meet inside the first cooperatives. Milk was transported every day in these big social dairy, where it was processed all together, obtaining at the same time an individual profit. During the centuries, this system grew more and more, evolving and adapting to technology, until it started to dominate even the modern dairy scenery.
Valtellina Casera took its name, in addition to the place of origin, even from the ancient “casere”, particular locals in which cheeses where left to season. Inside these typical stone structures, there were all the alp’s products, as the famous Bitto. The personality of these two cheeses, in fact, crossed ages and generations upon two parallel binaries, intertwining not only for the individual features, but also for their story.
Production and Regulation
The production of Valtellina Casera DOP occurs respecting the rules imposed by its Regulation. In particular, there is a severe control about the place of production of cheese. The milk’s collection and all the processes that lead to its transformation must take place in the province of Sondrio, in Lombardia.
Cow’s milk is left to stand for a half day and then it is skimmed. Later, they proceed with the coagulation, using calf’s rennet. The curd is then broken in little pieces, heating them at a temperature of 43°C for 30 minutes. Once that the granules condensed together, they are picked with specific cotton cloths and moved in the typical “fascere”. The paste is pressed manually, in order to allow the exit of the excessive buttermilk. After not less than 12 hours, each mold is salted, dry or in brine. Cheese will be ready for the quality control not less than 70 days of maturation.
Some manufacturers prefers to adopt still today the original maturation inside the traditional “casere”, which guarantee to the process a good temperature and humidity. During the seasoning, each shape is turned upside down many times, in order to avoid some deposits of buttermilk.
Taste and characteristics
Valtellina Casera DOP is a high quality cheese, which talks about mountain’s tastes and scents. Its particularity is due to the use of local war materials, obtained from animals free to feed with the rich local pastures, which give to cheese an intense and pleasant aroma. The taste is sweet and delicate, but it becomes more intense as the seasoning goes by.
Valtellina Casera is a semi-cooked cow’s cheese, which distinguishes especially for the use of semi-skimmed milk, reducing in this way the amount of fat. 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. By the slice, instead, it shows a shade from white to yellow, depending of the maturation, and with diffused and thin holes.
The taste of Valtellina Casera is particular, 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.
Valtellina Casera is a versatile food, perfect to be consumed at table or for many recipes. The taste can be made cutting some slices, quite thick, eatable 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 the “pizzoccheri” from Valtellina, some tagliatelle with buckwheat, or “sciatt” or “chiscioi”, a kind of pancakes with a heart of liquefied Valtellina Casera. Alternatively, we can prepare a good risotto, maybe adding some grated Parmigiano Reggiano DOP.
Valtellina Casera can be served even with good vegetables, realizing, for example, tasteful salads with lettuce, tomatoes and rocket, topped with some drops of Aceto Balsamico di Modena.
The most suggested wine to accompany Valtellina Casera must be red, full, with fruity notes. Among the local products, it is indicated particularly Sforzato di Valtellina or “Sfursat” DOCG, and also Rosso di Valtellina DOC, both obtained from grapes of Nebbiolo variety. As an alternative, it is perfect also the variety Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, produced especially in Friuli Venezia Giulia.