Among the hundreds of breeds of goats worldwide there’s one that’s more common than the others because of its high milk production: the Saanen, originally from Switzerland, has been spread through central Europe and the United States. In Italy there are Saanen goats in practically every region, but compared to other, more rustic breeds it requires greater care and a more sedentary style of farming.
And today we want to shine a light on the beautiful variety of goat breeds in Italy and the marvelous cheeses we make from their milk.
Every breed is different
Lombardy – The Orobica goat and traditional cheeses
Their milk is used for traditional raw milk cheeses like Valtellina Matuscin (a flattened cylinder, curdled with rennet, aged for at least a month), Valsassina Formagìn (a small cylinder of slightly acidified cheese eaten after three days) and Val Brembana Robiola (rectangular, made using the same technique as stracchino).
Orobica goats were once raised by all the families. Now they can be found in the pastures of the Orobie Alps and Alpine and prealpine areas in the provinces of Sondrio, Bergamo and Lecco. The breed’s hardiness has allowed it to adapt well to the hard-to-reach mountain pastures, and at the end of their useful life, the goats’ meat is often cured, making, for example, the classic violino.
Sicily – Girgentana Goat and traditional cheeses
The tuma ammucciata (hidden toma) is made using the traditional toma technique, and was traditionally hidden from bandits behind the walls of the house. Other cheeses are also made with the milk of the Girgentana goat, whose milk is renowned for its excellent balance between fat and protein.
Once upon a time the milk was consumed fresh. Its name derives from the town Agrigento, and is unmistakable for its long spiral horns. With its horns and white coat, it resembles wild Asian goats, and its origins, according to some, can be traced back to the goats of Tibet. The breed was probably brought to Sicily by the Arabs, who invaded in 827. From Mazara, they spread around the island, travelling with their animals, and the goats became established in the southwest of Sicily.
Puglia – Gargano goat, canestrato and cacioricotta
Canestrato, with its light brown crust and straw-yellow color is consumed fresh or grated, depending on how long it’s aged, and cacioricotta, created to use all the protein in the milk, including the protein in ricotta, are two traditional cheeses from Puglia linked to the culture of transhumance and made with milk of Gargano goats (Slow Food Presidium).
The Gargano goat breed, called Nustrala (“local”) in dialect, is an ancient breed native to the Gargano promontory, an area where goat farming has always played a fundamental role in the local economy. It is suited to both milk and meat production and is allowed to roam freely.
Lombardy – The Adamello Blonde Goat and Saviore Valley Fatuli
In the Adamello Natural Park a historic cheese is produced: Fatuli, a goat cheese from 10-14 centimeters in diameter and 4-6 centimeters high, weighing between 300 and 500 grams. The small size of the cheese is due to the tendency of the farmers to make the forms in soup bowls. Once it’s salted, the cheese is smoked.
Fatulì, which means “small piece” in dialect, is made with raw milk from a native goat breed, the Adamello Blonde Goat. Medium to large in size, it’s a sturdy, agile and quick breed. Its population, once much larger, was later subjected to a genetic remixing, due to the long lack of attention to mountain goat breeding, and for this reason it is on the Ark of Taste.