I love trying new foods. In the good old days of life in ‘da ‘Burgh, weekly trips ‘dahn ‘a ‘Strip ‘n ‘at meant chatting with Carol at Penn Mac and tasting her recommended cheeses. Great “discoveries” in those days: Spanish zamorrano, Italian raschera, St. Andre triple creme brie …
Last week at Carlino’s I picked up a wedge of Alta Badia, a cheese from Italy’s Dolomiti, near the Austrian border. While enamoured with its story once I got home and Googled it, its taste fails to invoke even the slightest tinge of pleasure for me. Pazienza!
But the picture is beautiful, isn’t it? Produced by a local cooperative of farmers in the Badia Valley, this cow’s milk cheese is aged for about six months and contains about 45% fat. Nothing like a triple creme brie, but that’s likely a good thing.
Writing for the San Fransisco Chronicle, Janet Fletcher describes more about Alta Badia’s story:
This mountainous area, at the heart of the Dolomites, was under Austrian rule until World War I, and it is still multilingual and multicultural. German remains the dominant language and the dominant influence on the table, with Italian a distant second in the language department. In a handful of local villages, a few thousand people maintain the Ladin language, a derivative of Latin.
The dairy, in the town of Brunico, gathers milk daily from its members, most of whom have only two to five cows; the largest farm has a dozen. The milk is pasteurized, and the cheese-making proceeds according to a recipe similar to that used for Gruyere or Appenzeller, the alpine cheeses of neighboring Switzerland. After the fresh curds are packed into their molds, they are pressed to force out whey and produce a more compact texture in the finished cheese.
The unmolded young wheels are brined for two days to season them and establish the rind, then transferred to an aging room where they will spend at least six months.
So, there you have it. A little bit of effort often reveals interesting tidbits, even if I didn’t find the cheese all that tasty. Don’t know if I’ll actually eat the cheese, but imagining its production sated the wanderlust this evening.
Am heading to Pittsburgh this weekend, and looking forward to hitting my favorite cheese shop.