In the amazing scenary of Lombard Alps of Valtellina rise many culinary Italian excellences. The rich green pastures, the pure mountain air and the able hands of manufacturers still create some of the most important names of Italian scene. In addition to Bitto DOP and Valtellina Casera DOP, Bresaola della Valtellina IGP also takes a prominent position.
History and curiosities
Despite the name of this excellent bresaola inevitably references to the territory of Valtellina, actually this cold cut derives from Valchiavenna. It probably originate from the descent of Barbarians from Northern Europe to our Alps. In fact the story goes that, during the crossings, the Nordic people always bring with them many cold cuts typical of their tradition, as bresaola. Actually, the first evidences of this cold cut date back to XV century.
Bresaola remained confined within the domestic production until the early XIX century, when it began to spread throughout Northern Italy and to nearby Switzerland. With the recognition of Protected Geographical Indication, in 1996, Bresaola della Valtellina has become one of the most known and appreciated cold cut in the world.
The origin of its name could be due to some different Lombard terms. For example, the saying “sala come brisa” is evidently linked to the salting process of bresaola or to “brisa”, a very salty gland present in bovine’s body. Standing to other hypothesis, instead, the name of this cold cut may come from the word “brasa”, that means embers in Lombard dialect. Originally, in fact, cold cuts were often left to dry in specific room, warmed up with braziers.
Production and regulation
As for all the PGI products, even the production of Bresaola della Valtellina must follow the rigid conditions of its Regulation. Unlike the products with the Protected Designation of Origin mark, we can consider a food really PGI as they declare only if at least one of the steps that lead to the finished product takes place in a designated area.
In particular, for Bresaola della Valtellina, it is essential that the meat-processing step take place within the Lombard province of Sondrio, while raw materials may have different origins. Since 1998, the Consortium ensure that manufacturers realize a Bresaola with all the requirements expressed by its Regulation, preventing counterfeiting and imitation.
Once arrived in the factory, national or foreign meat is rigorously checked to verify its genuineness. Then the leg is refined in order to select the only cuts that can be used to produce bresaola: rump, tip of the hip, sottofesa, topside and thick flank. Manufacturers remove the excess of fat from meat, and then they weigh and prepare it for salting.
Therefore, they cover every cut with the “concia”, a mixture of salt and spices that will give taste to bresaola. The salting process has a total duration of 10-15 days, and then they can go on with the “churning” process: they massage each piece with a special instrument, called “churn”, to let salt and spices penetrate deeply. Then they proceed stuffing meat into an artificial or natural casing, made from bovine collagen. Now meat can pass to drying and seasoning.
During the first week, meat loses a significant part of total moisture, but after the evaporation this process slow down, to proceed slowly in the last weeks. The seasoning period, including drying, varies from 4 to 8 weeks. This is a critical period, because each piece must dry very slowly, in order to maintain the right moisture and to absorb perfectly all the tastes given by salt and spices. For this reason, the climatic conditions of the seasoning rooms must have rigorous standards, with the right humidity, a good air circulation and a temperature between 12-18° C.
Many modern factories prefer to use specific rooms, but some manufacturers still use traditional “crotti”, natural caves that obtain air from the top and that offer a constant temperature all year long. At the end of seasoning, bresaola is washed with some water, in order to remove the white crust on the surface.
Taste and characteristics
Bresaola della Valtellina has some organoleptic characteristics that make it really unique. Many nutritionists, even for people on a diet, elderly people, children, diabetics and athletes, suggest this important cold cut. In fact, Bresaola della Valtellina distinguish especially because it is poor in fat and calories, but rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals.
When you cut it, bresaola appears with its typical uniform red color, sometimes with light white veining, due to the physiological fat of animals. The scent is delicate, but it always allow appreciating the particular notes of flavors used, as well as its taste, salty and very pleasant.
Bresaola della Valtellina doesn’t need to be served with particular combination in order to give off its pleasant characteristics. The best way to enjoy it is slicing it in very thin slices, with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil and some Parmigiano Reggiano PDO or Grana Padano PDO shavings. The delicate and aromatic taste of bresaola is perfect also with the typical cheeses of this land, as Bitto PDO and Valtellina Casera PDO, or with Robiola di Roccaverano from Piedmont or some ricotta cheese.
To recall mountain flavors, we can combine Bresaola della Valtellina with some fruit recipes, as Mela di Valtellina PGI in all of its varieties: Red delicious for its scent of honey and jasmine, Golden delicious for its crunchiness and juiciness. Great also the combination with honey, another typical mountain product, such as Miele delle Dolomiti Bellunesi, especially in Millefiori version, sweet and scented.
Bresaola della Valtellina is also ideal as ingredient for many Italian traditional recipes. For example, we can use it as seasoning for a risotto or for the typical “pizzoccheri valtellinesi”, that are tagliatella pasta made with buckwheat, using also vegetables, as cabbage, spinaches, arugulas and mushrooms.
The most indicated wines to match with Bresaola della Valtellina are especially red, young and slightly sour wines, as Rosso di Valtellina CDO, pleasantly scented and fruity, or the Apulian Castel del Monte Uva di Troia CDO, pleasant, but more dry and winy.