Formaggio Tipico Branzi
Let’s discover together one of the most typical cheeses of the Orobie Alps
⏱ 3 MINUTES READING
Let’s continue our trip to rediscover forgotten products: we go to Lombardy in the tiny mountain village of Branzi.
Here we are in one of the most suited territory for the dairy art, near Orobie Alps in the territory of Bergamo.
In addition to boasting an ancient dairy tradition, between the 1800s and 1900s Branzi was a destination for traders from around the region to participate at San Matteo Fair which was held in the last week of September. In these days bergamini (people who work in the alpage during the summer) come back to the valley with their animals and their cheese wheels made on the mountain.
During the fair, cheese trading was the main event for the local economy: I let you think that around 1850s the sold wheels were about ten thousand. Yes, you get it, ten thousand!
On the beginning of economic boom, after the second world war, Giacomo Midali, a local cheese-maker, started a project to enhance local cheese productions and he founded Branzi Dairy.
At that time the project was joined by two hundred small producers and breeders. Nowadays the cooperative is still collecting milk produced by small farms that work only for Branzi Dairy.
In the past the milk used for the production was obtained from two milking: the one milked in the evening that was left stand and skimmed, and the full-cream milk milked in the following morning.
Today Branzi cheese is made with the whole milk of both milking. The connection with the past is so deep that the dairy decided to not thermally treat the milk but to process it raw.
That is why the cheese is rich of fragrances and flavours that are transferred from the grass into the milk.
COAGULATUIN AND CURD BRAKING
After the milk is warmed up, the rennet is added and after 30 minutes the mass is broken in small pieces as hazelnut size.
It is left to rest in order to allow as much serum as possible to be expelled, then it is cooked at 45 °C for about half an hour.
The Formaggio Tipico Branzi is defined as a semi-cooked cheese because it does not exceed 48 °C at this stage, as happens, for example, with Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano.
SHAPING AND SALTING
The dense mass is introduced first in the cloths and then in the traditional wooden moulds in order to give the traditional round shape, with a diameter of about 45 cm and with the typical concave side.
Now the wheels are ready to be pressed. After a few days in the moulds, the cheeses are immersed in brine where they remain for three days before starting the aging phase.
The controlled temperatures, the local air and the meticulous care play a decisive role in the quality of Branzi cheese.
During this phase wheels are carefully turned, brushed, scraped and treated to protect the rind. After about 60 days the result is a cheese capable of surprising despite its simplicity.
Opening the wheel we note small eyes evenly distributed in the straw yellow paste. The paste is elastic: breaking the slice the first flavours we get are cooked butter and fruity notes.
In the mouth raw milk plays an important role: excellent acidity that is well paired with fruity and softly animal notes under the rind.
5 THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT THIS PRODUCT
Branzi dairy was born in the early 1950s thanks to Giacomo Midali and his project to evaluate local cheeses. His aim was to make Branzi available all year round, because originally it was produced only in summer. Today the dairy is managed by Giacomo’s grandchildren and continues to collect milk from the associated farmers.
Cows of Bruna breed, which graze over 600 m of altitude. The particularly fragrant milk will be entrusted to the hands of expert cheese-makers to produce Branzi following the traditional production techniques.
Branzi is a small town in the province of Bergamo located in the Alta Val Brembana a few kilometers from Parco delle Orobie, one of the largest natural protected areas in Lombardy. Extensive woods and meadows are home to very interesting flora and fauna. If you love walking at high altitude while enjoying breathtaking landscapes, this is the right place for you!
To use this product creatively, my suggestion is to create a tasty finger food: fried potato croquettes with Branzi heart and tomato. The result will not disappoint you: crunchiness with a stringy and succulent soul of cheese and tomato.
In 2015 the association Formaggi Principi delle Orobie was established to represents seven historical productions of this territory with long dairy tarditions: Agrì di Valtorta Slow Food Presidium, Storico Ribelle Slow Food Presidium, Branzi FTB, Formai de mut dell’Alta Val Brembana DOP, Orobica goat cheeses, Stracchino all’antica of the Orobic Valleys Slow Food Presidium and Strachitunt DOP.
Gianluca Di Lello