A unique cheesemaking tradition has survived in the small village of Valtorta, a community of 300 people nestled into the foot of the Alps in the Brembana Valley north of Milan. Thanks to collaboration between a small group of breeders and the local dairy cooperative, the Agri cheese is still being made today. Production of this small cow’s milk cheese takes three days and requires great skill on the part of the cheesemaker. The milk acidifies with the addition of a starter culture acid from the previous production, as well as a small amount of rennet. After leaving the mix to rest for one day, it is strained through linen cloths which are left to hang for another full day. On the third day the mix is wrapped and left for a further 24 hours. The curd, which has a very high acidity at this point, is then mixed with a little salt and formed into three-centimeter diameter cylindrical cheeses that are left to dry for a few days. The cheeses are ready after eight days, displaying sweet, aromatic flavors and a delicate aroma.
Only 12 breeders remain in the Valtorta valley, each with a very small herd of 10 to 12 cows. They no longer produce cheese on their farms, except for family consumption, and deliver their un-pasturized milk to the town’s small dairy cooperative. In addition to safeguarding a historic cheese and this unusual production process, the Valtorta Agri Presidium has a very important social function as it ensure the 12 small-scale local breeders can continue their work.
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