Formaggio Val-Campella Info
What is Formaggio Val’Campella
This is a fabulous cheese according to our panel of experts AKA local ‘Foodies’.
The northern mountains of Italy are home to an incredibly diverse range of cheese. In most regions a specific cheese is made by several producers as in Asiago, Montasio, Bitto, etc..
However Formaggio Val’Campella cheese is an exception. It has been made by a single family of producer and they have been making the same cheese themselves for eight generations, going back to the 1700s. Originally their site was a rest and stop-over called a Refugio for Herders moving their cattle from the valley to the high pastures. Here they would make their cheese and butter from the summer milk as well as serve meat produced with pigs they raised on the whey.
Today the Refugio is a destination stop for modern travelers, mostly day travelers and hikers.
Traditionally their cheese was made for mountain travelers at the Refugio. This unique cheese is quite different from Asiago, made further south, and not at all like their neighbors making Nostrano cheese, in the northern valleys of the Dolomites.
This cheese is typically quite young and only aged for a month or two at most. The curd itself remains quite sweet with very high moisture that weeps at room temperature.
But, the most unique character of this cheese is the large distribution of small to medium sized holes that are encouraged by a three or more day post-pressing fermentation at room temperature, before the final salting. With raw milk this time can enhance the work of yeast and other bacteria.
The final cheese has a more fruity (ripe apple/pear) flavor and a very supple elastic texture. It is primarily consumed as a table cheese
How to Make Formaggio Val’Campella
So much is different to make this cheese unique:
- Milk Quality | Typically made from raw milk to add complexity but can also be made from a full fat pasteurized milk for the home cheesemaker.
- Salt added to Milk | As the milk is heated a dose of salt is added to the milk to slow the acid development (keeps the final cheese sweeter)
- Short Pre-ripening time | The rennet is added after only a short ripening period to preserve the calcium and a springier and more elastic final cheese.
- Curd is warm washed | The curd is cut and stirred for a short period then a portion of whey removed and the same portion of hotter water added to heat the curds, effectively drying the curds and at the same time slowing acid development (not so much that it inhibits the mesophilic bacteria).
Final Cud mass is broken again | The curd is then drained in cloth with a good amount of hand pressing to consolidate the curds before opening and breaking into larger 2-3” pieces and then salting, effectively cooling the curds down to a working temperature for the Mesophilic bacteria and slowing the acid development.
All of the above steps lead to the characteristic moisture and texture of the final cheese plus the following.
- Light Pressing | The large curd pieces are then placed in forms and pressed, first with good hand pressure for packing and then with moderate weight to consolidate.
- Long Hold Post Press | Once consolidated well at the surface the curd goes to a resting space at about 60-64F for the next several days while the fermentation continues. This allows a more complex activity internally where more acid is slowly produced and the cheese develops some small to medium holes and a more buttery flavor.
All of this is done before the final surface salt is applied and the cheese moves to the final ripening space.