Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cheese: Montasio

Montasio is a DOP (protected designation of origin) cheese made from raw cow's milk in northeastern Italy (Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto regions). 
It was developed in the 1200s in a monastery in Moggio, in the Carnic Alps, although they originally used sheep's milk. It is made with milk from two milkings from three types of cows: Friesian, Swiss Brown and Pezzata Rossa. The cream is skimmed off the evening milking and mixed with the milk of the morning milking. Veal rennet is used to coagulate the milk, then the curd is broken into rice sized pieces and cooked at 115 degrees. The whey is removed and the curd is placed in molds and pressed and then either rubbed with salt or washed in salted brine. It ages from two to eighteen months. The yellow-brown rind is springy in younger aged cheese and harder and darker in older cheeses.
 The flesh is creamy, with small holes, 
but becomes granular, even brittle with age. Montasio Fresco is aged more than two and less than five months. It is mildly flavored and creamy. Montasio mezzano is aged from five to ten months. It has a deeper flavor, is firmer and more of a golden color. Montasio stravecchio is aged over ten months and is usually grated. It has an even stronger flavor. It has been compared to Swiss cheese, is used in fondue and also used for making fried cheese. 
The Montasio I had was purchased from Gerrard's and was a piece without any identifying characteristics, such as how long it had been aged. It was very mild tasting and had a creamy texture in the mouth. I found it to be kind of blah. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't really like it either. It did not have the Swiss type taste I dislike and I never would have put it in the same category as a Swiss cheese. I would take it over Emmentaler, but I would take Comte, Gruyere or Raclette over it as cheeses in a similar category, as those cheeses have a little stronger, more distinctive, taste. I had it on a baked cheese sandwich and it was mild, but good. 

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