Some picky eaters have never tried it, but goat cheese is delicious. Cheeses made from goat’s milk are often tangy and soft, with a strong aroma often described as ‘goaty’.
Though, there is not just one flavor of goat cheese. You’ll be surprised to see the flavor diversity of goat cheeses in Italy, which is partly thanks to the diversity of native goat breeds.
That is why Slow Food works to protect the endangered goat breeds through the Ark of Taste and Presidia, and promotes their cheeses at Cheese.
The goaty flavor is due to different factors, from the unique fatty acid compositions of goat’s milk and the presence of male goats during milking, to how fresh the milk was during cheesemaking. Before you say no next time you’re offered some goat cheese, think one more time. And when you are at Cheese this time, pay attention to the goat cheese exhibitors. They are likely working with endangered goat breeds and their goats are probably as important to them as their cheeses.
Ask them which breed they work with, and listen out for these names:
1. Roccaverano, Piedmont
One of the most popular Slow Food Presidium cheeses Robiola di Roccaverano comes from Roccaverano goats’ milk. Roccaverano is an indigenous breed native to the Langhe hills of Piedmont, named after the town of Roccaverano in Asti province. This is one of the forty three breeds of limited distribution listed as in danger of extinction by the Associazione Nazionale della Pastorizia (National Association of Pastoralism). They have been increasingly replaced by the more productive Camosciata and Saanen breeds. The Presidium for the cheese was established when the number of the goats declined seriously in the 1990s.
2. Cilentana, Campania
Handsome, isn’t she? Cilentana goats graze in the areas of Cilento National Park and Diano Valley in the province of Salerno. There are three types of them: Cilentana Fulva (Tawny Cilentana), Cilentana Grigia (Grey Cilentana) and Cilentana Nera (Black Cilentana). Their milk is almost entirely used to make the Cacioricotta Cilentana cheese (Slow Food Presidium), produced only in the Cilento Valley.
Cilentana’s milk is better for cheesemaking when milked in the morning, since the milk has more casein content and higher coagulation properties in the early morning. The productive process starts with hand milking and follows an unusual technique used for curdling the milk, partly using rennet (like “cacio,” cheese) and partly using heat (like ricotta).
3. Girgentana, Sicily
You can easily distinguish Girgentana thanks to their unique spiral shaped horns. They are named after the province of Agrigento (Girgenti in local dialect), where they are native to. The quality of their milk is much higher than many other goat milks, due to an ideal ratio of fat and casein.
There used to be thousands of them in their homeland, until the proliferation of fast productive breeds useful for industrial systems. Girgentana was listed as endangered in 2007 by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
The Presidium unites the remaining farmers and promotes the production of their raw milk cheeses, with the aim of increasing the number of Girgentana goats being farmed.
4. Orobica, Lombardy
Native to the Bergamo Alps of Northern Italy, Orobica has impressive twisted horns and a long coat that distinguishes it. They love rough plains and high altitudes, which makes them highly adaptive to mountain pastures.
This poor breed also suffers from the increasing use of fast productive breeds. Many farmers have abandoned their pasture, and their number saw a steep decline. The Presidium was established to unite the few farmers who still breed them and make cheese with traditional methods. Their raw milk is used to make traditional cheeses such as Valsassina Formagìn, Valtellina Matuscin and Val Brembana Robiola.