In Via Principi and Via Marconi, with a few exceptions in the Market Sqaure and the Cortile delle Scuole Maschili, you’ll find our beloved Slow Food Presidia.
This year the majority of the products available will be Italian, cheeses that we’ve learned to love over the years and which make the national dairy scene sparkle.
Slow Food Presidia
If you want to meet all the Presidia present at Cheese, have a look at the exhibitor catalog, and search by filtering for Presidia. As you’ll see for yourself, there’s more than just cheese on offer, but the traditional bread of the Alta Murgia, vegetables like the Paglina Onion of Castrofilippo, and charcuterie from the Nebrodi Black Pig.
However, the protagonists are of course the cheeses.
Presidia Street: Italian cheeses
The mountains around Verona, the Monti Lessini, are particularly well suited to pasturing cows, with gentle grassy slopes and a long growing period. The local cheeses are almost always made using milk that has already been skimmed for butter production. The term “Monte” in the name probably refers to the production technique, which involves the processing of milk from multiple milkings (monte in dialect). Mountain Pasture Monte Veronese, which is suited for aging, is made in Alpine dairies (malghe) with milk from grazing cows, while typical Monte Veronese can be made with the milk of cows living indoors at lower elevations.
Central: Maremma Raw Milk Pecorino
Only in the 20th century did the Maremma became the main place of production for pecorino in Tuscany. There are still many dairies in the area, with a diversified production, though the majority of farmers and cheesemakers concentrate on PDO Pecorino Toscano. Native breeds like the Amiatina are no longer the only ones to be farmed, but have been joined by breeds traditionally imported during the years of the transhumance, like the Sopravvissana, and with the migrations, like the Sarda. The milk is processed directly on the farm and the resulting pecorino varies in size and age, from 20 days up to 180 days and more for the aged and reserve cheeses.
A herd of Podolica cows grazing in the Gargano is a memorable sight. Their milk is used to make extraordinary cheeses, first and foremost Caciocavallo, but the breed’s yield is low. Podolica cows used to be among the most common in Italy but are now confined to the few areas in the south where pasture is sparse, water is scarce and survival is difficult. There is still a fairly large population in the Gargano, but their Caciocavallo is only sold on the local market. It is extraordinarily suited to aging, and it is only after several months that it takes on its unique sensory characteristics; notes of cut grass, bitter flowers, vanilla and spices make this one of the most aromatic aged cheeses in Italy.
Islands: Belice Valley Vastedda
Vastedda is Italy’s only stretched-curd sheep’s milk cheese. Historically it was made by the skilled cheesemakers in the Belìce Valley during the summer as a way of salvaging defective pecorino cheeses. The name comes from the dialect “vasta”, meaning spoiled, gone bad. The cheesemakers’ extraordinarily original idea was to rework the unsuccessful cheeses, stretching them at high temperatures to create this round, flat cheese. It must be eaten fresh, two or three days after being made. The delicious cheese is highly fragrant, with an intense flavor, and pairs best with Sicilian extra-virgin olive oil, tomatoes and oregano.
Presidia Street: international cheeses
As we’ve said, there’ll be less international cheeses compared to the last edition, given the logistical difficulties for many companies in these times.
However, some international Presidia will nonetheless be present, including Mountain Pasture Sbrinz from Switzerland. Today, of the 30 or so dairies who produce Sbrinz AOC (a protected designation of origin since 2002), only around ten take their animals to pasture. The aging of Sbrinz is traditionally done vertically on spruce planks, in cellars where the great forms are left to age at least 16 months: the best forms are aged up to 24 months and called Sbrinz AOC, while the others are opened at 18-20 months. These cheeses are then cut into thin shavings using a special slicer, common around the country.
Come and discover Presidia Street at Cheese 2021: support the biodiversity of milks, cheeses and animal breeds, and consider the animals!
Cover image: Vastedda del Belice, Photo: Alberto Peroli