Have you heard about the place Valtellina mountains? It’s a valley in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. This place is famous for producing one of the oldest cheeses in the world.
Do you have any clue about the cheese? If you are Italian, you would probably know the answer. Valtellina mountains are famous for producing Bitto cheese.
For people who are not aware of Bitto cheese, this article will guide you to the complete details of Bitto cheese that you need to know.
- 1 What is Bitto Cheese?
- 2 The History behind Bitto Cheese
- 3 What does Bitto Cheese taste like?
- 4 How Bitto Cheese is made?
- 5 How to enjoy Bitto Cheese?
- 6 What is Bitto Storico?
- 7 Where to find Bitto Cheese?
- 8 What are the best substitutes for Bitto Cheese?
- 9 Bitto Cheese Recipe
- 10 Ingredients
- 11 Method
- 12 Conclusion
What is Bitto Cheese?
Bitto cheese is an Italian semi-hard matured cheese. It is made with whole cow’s milk and raw goat’s milk. The young bitto cheese is called giovane which means young in Italian. The intense mountain aroma and grassy fragrance are the key features of Bitto cheese. Usually, it appears in a straw color with an oily and elastic paste.
It gets an elastic texture during the maturing process. It can be eaten alone or added with honey or wine for a better taste. An important feature of bitto cheese is that it only produces during the summer season when the cows feed on the high alpine meadows.
The cheese is mainly made with cow’s milk and only adds 10-20% of goat milk. The cheese received DOP (protected denomination of origin) recognition in 1996.
It is one of the rare cheeses that you can consume even after 10 years. Later, another version of bitto cheese named bitto Storico was produced.
The History behind Bitto Cheese
Bitto cheese has to say a long history of one thousand years. The history starts from the 16th century. Cheese was praised as a sublime dairy product during this age. People believe that the first bitto cheese was made in mountain pastures by using fruits and combining humidity, temperature, and craftsmanship.
There is an interesting factor behind the name of this cheese. The name comes from the Celtic term Bitu, which means perennial, named for the Bitto river, Italy. The celts raised the milk-giving animals and they performed the tradition of transforming milk into cheese.
What does Bitto Cheese taste like?
Bitto cheese has a sweet taste similar to Gruyere. It becomes soft to hard depending on the years of aging. When it gets aged properly, it maintains a close resemblance to parmesan cheese with a sharp taste and yellowish color. Properly aged bitto cheese appears with white dots on the rind and is comparatively hard than other cheeses.
How Bitto Cheese is made?
As you know that bitto is made by combining whole cow’s milk and a small portion of goat’s milk. This makes the cheese unique in flavor, texture, and fragrance. Following are the steps used to make bitto cheese.
- Heat the milk and stir well while it is heating
- Rennet is an important ingredient for making the bitto chees. Add the rennet for curdling the milk. Heat well.
- When the curds are separated, put in molds and pressed for 24 hours.
- Add needed salt and keep it maturing for 40 days at 12 to 16 C.
Young bitto cheese is also used for selling. The traditional way of making bitto cheese is different from the modern method.
The traditional method follows the process starting from collecting the milk in stone huts. The milk pours into a copper pot and heat well.
They use the leftover whey to make ricotta. They kept the cheese for 70 days for proper aging. In traditional methods, pastures use stone shelves to keep the cheese without any damage.
How to enjoy Bitto Cheese?
Bitt cheese can be stored at room temperature. You can eat the cheese alone or use it with a variety of foods. It has a delicious flavor of its own. It’s delicious to serve with fruits The Italians often use this cheese in their traditional dishes.
The cheese is considered the best to be paired with a valtelline mediation wine named ‘sfursat’. Bitto cheese is the main ingredient in the Pizzoccheri and sciatt. You can also add this cheese to food items that are made with buckwheat.
It’s better to pair with risotto, baked pasta, and fondue. When it comes to wines, bitto cheese is a must-try cheese to accompany valtellina superiore PDO.
What is Bitto Storico?
Bitto Storico is another version of Bitto cheese. Bitto Storico is following the same way the bitto cheese is produced. The cheese is made up of cow’s milk and orobica goat’s milk. Orobica is a type of goat that can be seen only in the Bergamo Alps of Northern Italy.
The cheese makers still use ancient stone construction for keeping the cheese for the aging process. They collect fresh milk from onsite and the cheese-making process starts from June 1st to September 30th. Bitto Storico doesn’t use any unnatural ingredients during the cheese-making process. They do not feed anything special to their cows. Bitto Storico is the most trustable and oldest edible cheese in the world.
Bitto DOP is less original than Bitto storico. Bitto DOP is produced in Valtellina. It allows additives to the traditional way of cheese making. The original Bitto cheese has undergone several transformations and resulted in a different taste. Bitto DOP cheese appears in yellow with a thin rind.
Where to find Bitto Cheese?
You can not easily get a slice of Bitto cheese. There is an interesting fact that there are only 12 producers that distribute Bitto cheese. You couldn’t buy this dairy product from your nearby grocery store or supermarkets. You will need to travel to the small town of Gerolo Alta for purchasing the original piece.
What are the best substitutes for Bitto Cheese?
Bitto cheese is hard to find. You can only find the cheese in Lombardy, the region where the Valtillena valley is situated. Therefore, let’s check some of the best cheeses that can substitute for Bitto cheese. They are,
- Fontina cheese
Fontina cheese is a semi-soft cheese that is similar to Bitto cheese. It can be used as an alternative to Bitto cheese. It is an Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. It originated at the feet of the Alps named Aosta valley. Later it became popular united states and other parts of the world.
The making process of fontina cheese also possesses certain similarities with bitto cheese. The milk used for making the cheese is directly collected from the pasture to the creamery. Fontina takes 3 months for maturing.
- Gruyere cheese
Gruyere is another option for substituting Bitto cheese. It has a close melting quality to Bitto cheese. It is a swiss type cheese made from cow’s milk. Gruyere has a similar color to Bitto cheese. It appears in pale yellow color with a slightly nutty taste.
Bitto Cheese Recipe
Bitto cheese is an active ingredient used in one of the most famous Italian recipes, pizzocheri. Let’s look at the ingredients and method of making Pizzocheri.
- Buckwheat flour- 300 grams
- White flour- 100 grams
- Milk- 3 tablespoon
- Bitto cheese – 200 grams
- Potatoes – 3
- Savory cabbage – 1
- Garlic- 1 clove
- Pepper- 2 tablespoon
Take a bowl and mix buckwheat and white flour using a mixer. Add egg and pour 3 tablespoons of milk and sprinkle a pinch of salt and mix well. Add enough water in order to obtain a hard dough.
Mix well until it turned into smooth. Roll out the dough and horizontally cut it into strips. Peel the potatoes and chop them. cut cabbages into small strips. Boil the water and add salt, potatoes, and savory cabbage and cook them. add pasta strips to it. Gently mix with a wooden fork.
While pasta and vegetables are cooking, take a pot and add butter with the clove garlic, and sage leaves. Slightly fry. Drain the pasta and boiled vegetables and put them on a plate.
Cut bitto cheese into thin strips and sprinkle them above the pasta with a little bit of butter and pepper.
You can make it, even more, tastier by making another layer with parmesan. The delicious pizzocheri is ready.
If you are a cheese lover, you must try bitto cheese. Bitto cheese is one of the ancient cheeses in the world. It has a rich history too. If you belong to Italy, take a drive to Valtellina to enjoy the bitto cheese with your favorite meal.