Fontina Valle d'Aosta
The origin of the name fontina is somewhat divisive. Some link the cheese's name from Mont Fontin, in the municipality of Quart. Others link the name to the Italian verb Fondere, meaning to melt. Whatever the truth, this rich and time-honored cheese is regarded among the most celebrated of the Valle d'Aosta region. As long ago as 1477, Pantaleone di Confienza wrote in his Summa lacticinorum: "Vallis Augusta casei boni sunt" - "in the Valle d'Aosta the cheeses are good."
This rich and fatty orange fontina cheese comes in great cartwheels and despite its excellence and popularity; it is actually quite difficult to make this cheese successfully.
To make Fontina, only fresh milk from Valdostana cows is used and it must be raw and come from a single milking. After the first heating and coagulation, the curd is broken up and then left to stand for a short while. The curd is cut once again until rice-sized granules are obtained. Afterwards, the semi-cooked curd is left to settle at the bottom of the vat.
After this, the curd is wrapped in cloth and placed in molds that give the sides of the cheese its distinguishing concave profile. The cheese is then pressed for approximately 12 hours, during which time it is turned over frequently before being transferred to a cool, yet humid atmosphere. Here, the cheese is turned daily and salted and washed with brine every other day. This is repeated until the outer rind turns brown. The next and final step is to leave the cheese to mature in a natural environment for at least 3 months.
The end result of this laborious process is cartwheel of cheese that is about 16 inches in diameter and 3 inches tall, and its weight can range from 18 to 40 pounds a piece. Its thin, orange gold rind protects the soft, elastic buttery texture. It has a pungent aroma and a delicious sweet and nutty flavor that is perfect as a table cheese. Because it melts so beautifully, it is also excellent for cooking. The traditional Valle d'Aosta fonduta is made using this cheese.
Fontina gained DOP status on June 12th 1996. The mark of this celebrated mountain cheese features the outline of the Matterhorn.
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