Cheese-making in Piedmont
The art of cheese-making is something of an institution in the Piedmont region of Italy. The area offers a wide selection of different cheeses, many made to exacting and traditional standards. A trip to Piedmont should therefore take in the range of farmers markets which run here, from which you can buy top quality local produce.
One of the centres of the Piedmontese cheese-making industry is the charming town of Bra in Cuneo province. Baroque architecture dominates this predominantly seventeenth century town, whilst its vast number of churches and palaces make the area a fascinating tourist destination. Particular highlights include the church of Sant'Andea (1682) and Santa Chiara, with its facade designed by Bernardo Antonio Vittone in 1748.
The cheese made here is particular to the province of Cuneo as it is illegal to make it elsewhere. Cheese manufacture originated here in the late fourteenth century. It is traditionally made from cow’s milk, although small quantities of goat's or sheep's milk can be added. The semi-soft, half-fat cheese has usually been aged for around a month and a half, whilst the mature variety has been kept for over half a year. In Liguria, the cheese became a primary ingredient in the making of pesto.
Another famous cheese from this region is Castelmagno. It was first recorded being made in 1277 but it is likely that its origins are earlier, making it one of the oldest cheeses in Italy. It is a semi-fat cheese, semi-hard in texture, and made from whole cow’s milk.
The milk is obtained from local cattle that are fed on particular forage from the meadows, giving the cheese a distinctly local flavour. It can be eaten on its own but is also a popular addition to fondue, rice, pasta and polenta dishes. It is traditionally served with honey and fortified wine.
Murazzano is another cheese with a strong heritage, having been named by Pliny the Elder in his ‘Natural History’. It is a full-fat, unripened cheese which predominantly contains sheep’s milk. Cow’s milk can be added up to the value of 40%. It has a mellow taste, whilst it is soft and slightly springy to the touch.
Only three cheeses have been singled out in this article but the Piedmont region is famous for many more. Whilst touring here, checking out markets and other cheese emporia therefore comes highly advised.