Italian culture is closely linked to culinary art in all its forms and expressions. They range from the creation of typical dishes to production respecting century-old traditions and rigid specifications, the famous PDO and DOC products of protected origin, each specific and exclusive to certain areas. It is, among others, the case of many Italian cheeses, available in such a variety of types and tastes that it amazes visitors especially those coming from abroad. The cheese making tradition is something ancestral, which is handed down from father to son in the country’s farming culture. The cheeses are omnipresent on the tables of every Italian citizen, and it is possible to taste them in any restaurant, trattoria or even corner of street food scattered throughout the territory.
How to make cheese? Dairy Italy
Italy is famous all over the world for two fundamental aspects: culture and food. When it comes to food it is really second to none, because every single region has its own culinary specialties and represents a universe in itself in terms of smells and tastes.Cheese has much relevance, among other typical products of Italian culture. It comes in any shape and in any facet, from classic fresh cheeses to seasoned flavored.
In fact, you have to know that every type of cheese is obtained by fermenting milk in different ways, using different bacterial strains and following precise timing and procedures. The final yield really is affected by hundreds of factors, from the external temperature to the work tools, through the additives and the modalities or the processing times. But how to make cheese, then? Since timing, instruments and ingredients to be used vary in type, first let’s get to know all the most popular and appreciated “forms” of cheese in the Bel Paese.
Classification of Italian cheeses
If you are wondering how to make cheese, know that each type of milk derivative presents a preparation in its own right and there is therefore no single recipe for all. Italian cheeses can be subdivided very succinctly into fresh, hard, soft and spun cheeses.
Stracchino-Lombardia-Formaggio a pasta molle
- The fresh cheeses derive from the milk curd, do not have a crust and have a taste similar to milk; they are rich in protein and water (such as robiola or caprino) and perfect for anyone who needs to look after their figure. They are indeed an excellent source of protein and do not have a lot of fat or much salt.
- Those with a hard dough, such as Grana Padano or the Piedmontese Castelmagno, are aged and very fat and require long or medium / long fermentation. They are typical especially of northern Italy.
- The pasta filata cheeses, including the famous mozzarella di bufala from Campania, the main ingredient of Neapolitan pizza, are perfect as an ingredient to prepare tasty recipes and have a more elastic consistency and excellent yield in cooking.
- Those with a soft dough are instead the tastiest to savor on bread croutons & co. They include products such as the famous Crescenza (or stracchino) and are matured for about 6 months.
Typical cheeses of the Italian tradition: how to prepare fresh cheese?
The fresh cheeses are white and smooth, with no crust. If you’re wondering how to make fresh cheese, know that it’s the easiest to make. It is made simply starting from a small fermentation of the milk curd.
Italian cheeses: how to prepare soft cheese?
To prepare soft cheese, rennet is used to coagulate the milk. The final content of water in the product is about 45/55%. The crust of these products is very thin and edible and their shelf life is minimal: they must be consumed within a few days of purchase. The taste is pleasantly acidic.
Italian cheese: how to prepare Bleu cheese?
Bleu cheeses (terminology common to French and English) are the classic blue cheeses typical of many Italian regions. They are called “bleu” because of the blue / green veins that cross them and are produced using penicillin, molds that are introduced directly into the production mix. The shapes are then “pierced” with large pins so that the molds can develop inside the channels obtained. The most popular? The famous gorgonzola, with its strong, sour and decisive flavor.
How to prepare spun paste cheese?
They are typical of most of southern Italy (from Campania downwards) and include mozzarella, fiordilatte, burrate, and stracciata, but also slightly harder provolone and scamorza. Their ability to blend perfectly at high temperatures is typical, giving the dishes an extreme creaminess that makes them perfect as ingredients of products such as pizza, fried arancini, calzoni and vegetable flans. To prepare them, the curd, after a short seasoning, is dipped in hot or warm water and is then “spun” (pulled with wooden sticks).
Typical cheeses of the Italian tradition: how to prepare hard or semi-hard cheese?
They are obtained starting from raw and pasteurized milk, coagulated with rennet and left to acidify. The fundamental stages of the production process are the breaking of the curd (repeated twice for some special products such as castelmagno and bra d’alpeggio), the “molding” and the pressing inside the molds. They are subdivided into cooked pasta cheese, the most common, raw pasta (typical of Piedmont) or semi-cooked (very popular too). Maturing depends on the specific type and can even last for many years.
Italian cheeses and digestibility
Consider that Italy is famous in the panorama of cheeses for a particular characteristic, that of having among its best products the very famous Parmigiano Reggiano DOP. Of all the cheeses in the world, the most seasoned version of Reggiano (from 24 to 36 months of maturing) is the poorest in lactose. The long fermentation combined with the aging causes lactose (a complex sugary molecule difficult to digest for many adults) to be “digested” by the bacteria present in the air, which makes the Reggiano a must have for anyone suffering from digestive problems.
The driving force behind the high digestibility of Italian dairy products is also the quality of the raw materials used. In Italy the use of powdered milk is totally forbidden, and only rarely is milk coming from farms outside the national territory used. The regulation is very strict and the milk is always (or at least 99% of the time!)of excellent quality. Even the production chains are controlled, and when you choose to buy cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Gorgonzola PDO, both dependent on the control of specific consortia , you are sure to buy products of the highest quality. Understanding how to make cheese in a few minutes is not easy, but having a clear view of the issue allows you to choose the best products to buy, even according to their type and their final taste!