The great cheeses of the Monregalese
Monregalese cheeses – Raschera, Murazzano, Bra, Toma… a centuries-old tradition!
Cheese is a staple food of this farming community and is closely linked to the territory that gives it its identity. Like with wine, with its types and colors, smells and taste, one also describes cheese from the area from which it originates. The process of cheese making has been refined over the centuries. Cheese absorbs the taste not only of the animal’s milk, but of the earth and the herbs, even the air and the mountain sun. Therefore, tasting a piece of cheese, like drinking a glass of wine, means immersing yourself deeply in the culture and tradition of its territory. The Monregalese has a very varied landscape and is rich in cheese treasures. Let’s discover them!
The home of Raschera cheese is in the Monregalese mountains, most particularly on Monte Mongioie above Frabosa Soprana, a village which dedicates its most important annual folk festival to this cheese, as well as to Bruss. The lake which gave Raschera its name is found on the slopes of Monte Mongioie. In addition to Bra cheese, Raschera is one of the most famous cheeses in the province of Cuneo. It is a semi-hard cheese with a short to medium ripening time (at least one month). It is made from cow’s milk, but sheep or goat’s milk can be added. Its shape is cylindrical or square. The real Raschera comes from the alpine pastures and will overwhelm even a connoisseur with its intense and unique taste, which becomes stronger the longer it matures. Its rind is thin, smooth and soft with a grayish-yellow color.
Toma of Murazzano Dop
Toma of Murazzano is one of the main culinary products of Alta Langa and is known throughout Italy as a delicacy. It is a DOP cheese (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or, a Protected Origin of Destination), and is made from sheep and cow’s milk. This fatty, fresh, soft cheese matures only briefly and is characterized by an intense and unmistakable taste. The length of the aging period determines the taste of the cheese. A fresh Murazzano consumed after only a few days of ripening differs significantly from one which is aged for several months. Slow Food has included this cheese in its Presidia to preserve its original recipe, which is made exclusively from the raw milk of Langhe sheep (a maximum of 5% cow’s milk may be added). The cheese generally has a thin, soft rind where white mold can form. The moist and soft inside is ivory-white in color and contains small holes. According to today’s regulations, no more than 40% cow’s milk may be used.
Testun cheese is a typical product of the Piedmont region, especially in the Monregalese. It is a fatty cheese that requires a medium to long aging period. The fact that it is a hard cheese is evident from its name, “Testun”, which means “stubborn” in the local dialect.It is made mainly from sheep’s milk, with a small amount of cow’s milk. It is characterized by an ivory-white to straw-yellow rind. Varieties which are aged in alpine meadow hay (Testun del fen) or under Barolo pomace are particularly valued.
Bruss is a real treasure for cheese lovers but by no means a taste appreciated by everyone: It is a fatty, fermented, soft cheese with an intense flavor. In the past, farmers made Bruss with leftover cheese that was fermented with some milk and a kind of “sourdough” starter. The result was the very special cheese which, together with Raschera, is celebrated at the annual Folk Festival in Frabosa. The inside similar to a spreadable cheese with colors ranging from light gray to greenish, from white to straw, depending on which cheeses are used in the initial phases of production. The flavor is extremely intense. A local Piedmontese proverb says, “Only love is stronger than Bruss”.
The excellent cheeses of the province of Cuneo
Bra is another great DOP cheese from the province of Cuneo. There are two types: Bra Tenero (soft) and Bra Duro (hard). It comes from the town of the same name, which has become a national reference point for the cheese industry with its annual “Cheese” festival. Bra Tenero is a fatty, semi-hard cheese, while Bra Duro is a semi-fat, hard cheese. It is made from sheep, cow and goat milk, with cow milk predominating. This cheese, which has always been very popular, was once produced in the surrounding mountain valleys and then stored in aging cellars in the town of Bra, hence its name.
Castelmagno is one of the most typical and popular cheeses in the Piedmont. It is made in the province of Cuneo in Castelmagno, Pradleves and Monterosso Grana. It is a fat or semi-fat cheese which is semi-hard and has a short to medium aging period. It is characterized by a crumbly interior with an intense taste and smell. If it is produced in mountain pastures it is noted on its label. It is made from cow’s milk with a small amount of sheep and goat milk. It is widely used in the kitchen and is the star ingredient of some of the most classic traditional dishes, such as Gnocchi al Castelmagno.