Eight Rare Cheeses You Can’t Miss at Cheese

Spiral-shaped, covered with mold, wrapped with vine leaves that were soaked in pear brandy… At Cheese 2017, there are many choices among the 150 Italian and international exhibitors, affineurs and breeders, Slow Food Presidia and Ark of Taste products. Each one exclusively raw milk, as the theme of this year requires. Some are very strange, unusual, and rare.

Take a look at our selection of eight unique cheeses that you can taste in Bra on 15 – 18 September.


1 – Rogue River Blue

Let’s begin with a cheese from the United States, our guest country. This is Rogue River Blue, made only in autumn when cow’s milk is better in quality. This award-winning cheese is wrapped in vine leaves that were previously soaked in pear brandy. The blue veins inside carry notes of hazelnuts and fruit, and the paste gets crystallized with aging. To taste it, just pass by the Affineur Avenue, the best spot to experiment with rare flavors and know the cheeses’ stories.

2 – Saudade de Cuco

On the same avenue, you’ll find two other rare international cheeses that are worth of attention: the first one is Cuco, a PDO cheese made with the raw milk of the Serpa sheep breed in Portugal’s Alentejo region. This cheese is great for vegetarians: the milk is coagulated with vegetal rennet obtained from thistle. The artisanal production is done with a very slow drainage and pressing of the milk done by hand. Cuco has won silver medal at International Cheese Tours in 2015.


3 – Bodega

Now we have the Bodega from the Canary Islands, precisely the Lanzarote island. The producer takes great care of the welfare of the animals: their goats even listen to music. The rind of this cheese is washed with olive oil and its sweet and slightly sour taste leads to traces of nuts.


But in terms of strangeness, Italian cheeses have nothing to envy. Being experimental during the production and aging phases gives life to eccentric, strange and rare cheeses, such as some Pecorino cheeses made with wine, tomato sauce and aromatic herbs.


4 – Toma del lait brusc


In the national marketplace you can come across Toma del lait brusc (Ark of Taste), produced since ancient times in the Piedmontese Susa, Sangone and Lanzo valleys. Today it is much less diffused and rarely around. To produce this cheese, acidified milk from the milking of the day before is used, partially substituting rennet. The result is a cheese without holes, characterized by a noteworthy chalkiness – or crumbliness – in the dough. Tastes that emerge more distinctively are sour and bitter, bringing pleasurable piquant sensations if the cheese is aged for a long time.


5 – Belice Valley Vastedda 

From the other side of Italy, Sicilian cheeses represent the diversity of Italian production very well. On the Presidia Avenue you’ll find Belice Valley Vastedda, the only stretched sheep’s cheese from Italy, from the native sheep breed Belice (Ark of Taste). The working of the cheese varies according to the habits of the cheesemaker: more experienced ones manage to stabilize and manually determine the exact maturation by doing spinning tests. Once the right texture is reached, the paste is cut and placed in portions inside ceramic pottery plates, which in a short time give the typical flattened ovoid shape called vastedda, similar to a flat loaf.

6 – Parenica

Let’s move towards eastern Europe, to the Tatra Mountains, a lesser known region of Slovakia. In this uncontaminated setting, three ambassadors of Ark of Taste from Slovakia are produced. Parenica is one of them, prepared with the raw milk of local sheep’s milk, steam cooked and shaped as a spiral. To taste it, just participate in the Taste Workshop Slovakia: Cheese and Beer, Pastures and Flowers.


7 – Tcherni Vit

From Slovakia we move to the south of the Balkan Peninsula, to the lands of pastoralism and transhumance. From Bulgaria, Cheese hosts the Tcherni Vit green cheese at the Taste Workshop Balkans: Pastures and Cheeses between East and West. During alpine maturing, wooden containers are opened to allow humid air to penetrate into the cheese and favor flowering of noble, green molds, turning this product into one of the very few natural herbaceous plants in the world.

8 – Somerset Cheddar

Last but not least, the true Cheddar. You might say this is a well-known cheese, why include it here? It’s true that Cheddar today is one of the most widespread cheeses in the world. However it has become highly industrial and standardized. Today only three English cheesemakers preserve the traditional production method, struggling for the recognition of their work. They use only traditional starter cultures of the Somerset region (also known as pint starters) and veal rennet which contribute a pleasant and clean flavor to the cheese. No Cheddar tastes the same as the other. Cheeses produced by the same person but on different days of the week have distinctive aromatic differences. Artisanal Somerset Cheddar, Slow Food Presidium, has a crust rich on molds and is unlike the many Cheddars we know.


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