adventure at high altitude
Roberto Donna, Galileo Restaurant - Washington, D.C.
should immediately say that this cheese is not easy to produce.
From the human side it requires sacrifice and passion for
the making of the cheese, but nature is the most important
element: it will provide a great season or a bad one. Thanks
to the natural conditions of the Alps, the climate is perfect
(dry summers and cold winters) for the growing a precious
species of a flora that serves as greens for cow's meals.
big adventure starts in May, when the pastor and cows start their
stroll to the "Alpeggi" (Alpeggi is the area located in
high altitude where all the good greens grow.). For 3 months man
and cow will be inseparable, best friends in the long walks towards
the highest pascoli in Europe. They will arrive at the end of July
at 8200 feet of altitude, and the cows will have up to 9000 feet
high of field to graze and produce the great milk used to make fontina
human work starts at night with the milking of the cows. Then the
milk is used in the next hours or it will loose precious quality
and the cheese will loose in taste. As soon as the milking is finished,
the milk is placed in a large caldaia (calderon) in order to mix
it all together and it is kept at 36°C - the same temperature
of the cow's body temperature. After that the caglio is added, a
nice mix is given to it, and it is allowed to rest for 3 hours.
After the rest, the curd will be cut with a large whisk and the
coagulation will happen. The next step will be the forming of the
cheese and the shaping of it, done in large rings. After the wheels
are formed, they will be passed to the salting stage and then in
the mountain cave where they will mature sitting on pine wood shelves.
The caves have a natural 8-10°C temperature with 90 to 98 percent
humidity. The fontina will be ready in 3 months, and during these
3 months the rind of the cheese will be constantly and methodically
washed with salted water in order to prevent mold from forming.
Today the cheese is produced all year long except during October
and November for that is the time for the cows to give birth to
the little calves.
you can understand why the cheese that comes on the market during
the winter is much better than that that is produced during the
winter when the cows eat dry green hay.
a great recipe to prepare with fontina, but I recommend you also
to eat fontina as is with a good glass of Dolcetto di Ovada.
Rissoto with Fonduta Recipe