Çuç di Mont
Where tradition meets the art of cheesemaking
The art of cheesemaking in Friuli Venezia Giulia
In June, high-altitude meadows found in the alpine region of Friuli Venezia Giulia await the arrival of sheep, cows, and goats from the valley floor ready to feed on fresh green pastures. The seasonal migration has just begun and Malga cheese is ready to be made.
But what is malga?
Malga describes the land found in the Alpine region between 600-2,500m a.s.l. where livestock can graze freely. The malga also includes buildings that lodge shepherds and cheesemakers during the summer while they process and preserve milk, cheese, and other milk derivatives. The malga also serves as a shelter for the cattle.
In Friuli Venezia Giulia the small artisan cheesemaker factory Caseificio Dalle Celant works in accordance with this ancient tradition. They set off from the valley floor with their cows and make their way up to the malga at an altitude of 1,130m a.s.l.
At the start of summer, production of the traditional malga cheese çuç di mont begins. In the Friulian language ‘çuç di mont’ translates to ‘cheese of the mountains.’
Production of çuç di mont cheese follows the traditional family recipe which meets the Slow Food (a global organization that promotes local food and traditional cooking) presidium cheesemaking requirements. These strict guidelines only permit milk obtained from cows fed almost exclusively on pasture, although a small amount of cereal supplementation may be allowed, to be used in the production of this high-quality cheese.
The milk is then processed directly on-site and cooked with a wood fire. Finally, natural whey is added to allow the acidification of the milk.
After a reposing period in the cauldron, the curds are removed by hand, with the help of linen cloths, and placed in special moulds.
All of the steps taken during cheese elaboration take place manually. It is aged at least 60 days before it gets to the market.
In contrast, some artisan cheesemakers may decide to age this cheese for a longer period.
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Çuç di mont cheese can mature for a long time, improving its organoleptic qualities, however, most cheesemakers put their cheese on the market after about two months. As a result, the aroma of a bouquet of aromatic herbs, reminiscent of summer flowers and alpine pastures, can be identified.
In some cases, these notes can provide a pleasantly bitter aftertaste.
Aromas and flavours can vary depending on what type of milk is used.
Friulian Dolomites, Carnic Alps, and Prealps, Julian Alps and Prealps, Pordenone and Udine provinces (Credit: Slow Food)
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