Slow Food Presidia: Nice to Meet You!

Cheese wouldn’t be Cheese without the Slow Food Presidia. Rare and magnificent products from around the world reflect an incredible biological and cultural diversity of pastures, breeds, traditions and skills.

With over 100 products from around Italy and across the globe, the dairy Presidia will be well represented at Cheese 2017. As always, you’ll find them on their dedicated streets, Via Principi di Piemonte and Via Marconi.

The Presidia will be on display and available for tasting and sale at their stands, but they will also star in Taste Workshops and at the Free Space dedicated to natural cheeses made without the use of industrial starter cultures. On September 17, from 4pm to 5.30pm at the Biodiversity House, the event Slow Food Presidia: Nice to Meet You! will focus on the this year’s new Presidia, many of which are the result of ancient livestock farming traditions from the across the length and breadth of the Italian peninsula.

New Presidia from Italy

Trentingrana di alpeggio. Photo by Valerie Ganio

The Mountain Trentingrana Presidium was launched to add value to Alpine dairy traditions and to promote the cheesemakers whose products stand out from among Trentino’s other grana cheeses.

The cattle breeds used in the region include Bruna, Friesian, Pezzata Rossa, Grigio Alpina, Rendena, Pinzgau and their crosses. In summer, the animals are brought up to the mountain pastures, and spend time in the cowshed only for milking. They eat only the local grasses, with a small supplement of non-GM cereals.

The result is a cheese with extraordinary sensory qualities compared to standard grana. This cheese is produced only in six malghe (mountain dairies), with an average of 800 to 1000 forms made every summer, depending on the pasture conditions.

Moving east, the next new Presidium is Çuç di Mont from Friuli Venezia Giulia. The Presidium unites the few producers who still follow traditional methods, naturally without the addition of industrial starter cultures. A new generation of cheesemakers is now repopulating more than 60 malghe in Friuli in order to make this cheese, using exclusively the summer milk of the cows that live in the pastures there. They eat mostly grass and wild herbs, with only a little supplemental local hay or cereals. The aim of the Presidium is to add value to this product, to categorize the different types according to the specific malghe where they are made and to experiment with aging some of the cheeses that are usually sold fresh.

Maremma Raw Milk Pecorino. Photo by Roberto Giomi

Heading south, towards Italy’s Tyrrhenian coast, we find the Maremma Raw Milk Pecorino Presidium from Tuscany. The milk is obtained from cows from the native Amiatina breed, as well as a few other breeds brought in more recently for the seasonal migration of livestock.

The milk is processed on the farm and the final cheeses can have various forms and ages, from 20 days up to 180. We owe the great variety of this pecorino to the fact that there were no official rules for producers for a long time: they simply experimented, until the arrival of the Pecorino Toscano PDO.

The Presidium wants to protect the producers who feed their sheep with wild grass and non-GM and local or self-produced cereals. Of course, the use of pasteurized milk is not permitted by the Presidium, nor is the use of commercial starter cultures and artificial treatments on the rind.

Pecorino di Farindola in preparation

Pecorino di Farindola is a new Presidium from Abruzzo, unique in Italy and probably globally because it uses pork rennet for coagulation, which yields distinctive aromas and flavors.

The cheese is made by women, using a recipe passed down through the generations. They produce very limited quantities in a restricted area in the eastern Gran Sasso massif.

Farindola Pecorino has a striped rind, due to draining in reed baskets, with a light yellow to dark brown color depending on aging. The paste is granular, straw-colored and slightly moist. The cheese is mostly made by families for their home consumption.

We close the journey of Italian Presidia in Calabria, with Monte Poro pecorino. Excellent pecorino cheeses are made in this part of Calabria due to centuries of sheep-breeding traditions. The milk is coagulated with home-made goat rennet. The unctuous paste and rich flavor come from the olive oil and chili pepper rubbed on the rind. In some cases, notes of mint, wildflowers and hay can be perceived, and often an “animal” undertone. The Presidium is working to set up standards for production and aging, so that this cheese can be appreciated and promoted at a local level.

… from the Netherlands

Boeren Leyden

Another new Presidium comes from the Netherlands: traditional Boeren Leyden, one of the oldest cheeses in its region. The city of Leyden was home to a cheese market already in 1303.

High acidity, a low fat content and a solid consistency made this cheese ideal for overseas transport during colonial times. Despite the high temperatures and humidity during travel, the cheese kept well and was used to feed ships’ crews in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The addition of cumin seeds to the curd makes it easy to cut the hard paste. Another unusual ingredient are the annatto seeds which give a characteristic brownish-red color to the rind.

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