Thursday, September 17, 2009

My New Favorite Cheese

Montasio is an Italian cheese that I first came to know from a book of cheese making recipes. Recently, I tried to make Montasio never having eaten this type of cheese. Unfortunately, that wheel of home made raw Montasio cheese was lost due to some infested goat cheese. This made me very sad as it is a difficult, labor intensive cheese to make. Aside from much stirring and standing over a big hot pot of milk, it had to be brined in two pounds of cheese salt.

Last week I was in Wegman’s and saw a display of Montasio cheese near the deli counter. As this cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and is aged, it can be stored at room temperature. I brought home the cheese and we all fell in love. Patrick typically only enjoys sheep’s milk cheese but had to remark on Montasio’s deliciousness.

It is similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago but not as sharp. Montasio has salty pockets of flavor crystals which are actually trapped pockets of protein. It is a hard aged cheese that will sweat a little at room temperature. Its texture is slightly chalky and chewy. Its flavor is nutty, salty, and delicate

Montasio can be eaten alone, grated, and used in fondue. It is traditionally used to make frico which is fried cheese. Montasio is also made in a young fresh variety, Fresco as well as five to ten months mezzano, which I had, and stravecchio which is aged for over ten months. The color will become more golden with age and the flavor will intensify. Montasio has a DOP label which means it has Protected Designation of Origin. Its production must adhere to strict standards to ensure the best quality cheese

Montasio is from the north east corner of Italy in the Friuli-Venezia Guilia region. It lies at the foot of the Alps bordered by Austria and Slovenia. It was first made by Benedictine monks in the 1200’s using sheep’s milk. Montasio cheese will pair well with beer or cider, which is nice when the weather turns colder. It can also stand up to a Merlot or Pinot Grigio.

This cheese even has its own website

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