The Slow Cheese Award 2009
Cheese – Bra (Cn) September 2009
Artisanal Sognefjord Geitost Presidium Cheesemaker, Norway
Looking out over the icy waters of Sognefjord, the deepest fjord in Norway, the village of Undredal continues to produce Geitost, a brown goat’s cheese, following an ancient tradition as it has always done. Only in this particular village is the cheese produced following a procedure that dates from more than 500 years ago.
Until little more than 30 years ago, the only way to reach the village was by sea and this explains why the centuries-old tradition has been preserved to this.
In 1991, Norway passed a law to make the pasteurization of milk for dairy products compulsory. Thanks to the efforts of a group of producers, encouraged and led by Pascale Baudonnel, a French woman who came from Normandy to live in the village and was well aware of the importance of raw milk, an Underdal cheesemaking cooperative has managed to receive the first authorization in Norway to make cheese with raw goat’s milk.
Aged Mountain Asiago Presidium Cheesemaker, Veneto, Italy
“Toni”, aka “Nickel”, is one of the oldest producers in the Slow Food Aged Mountain Asiago Presidium and still makes cheese in his mountain dairy at Porta Manazzo. His herd still includes a few head of Rendena cattle, a breed typical of the pastures of the Asiago plateau in Veneto and of the plateaus of the Trentino region from which it originated in past centuries (it is named, in fact, for the Val Rendena, a valley in Trentino).
Rodeghiero is one of the “resistant” cheesemakers who have preserved the tradition of maturing Asiago for at least 18 months, thus producing the prized “stravecchio” or super-aged version. In recent years, this extraordinary cheese – one of Italy’s finest – really did risk extinction.
Macagn Presidium Cheesemaker, Piedmont, Italy
Livio Garbaccio is a young dairy breeder and cheesemaker who produces Macagn cheese on a mountain called Alpe Lincè. He spends his summers in the Valsesia with his family – his mother Angelina, his wife Emanuela (an economics graduate but a herder by choice), and his two kids – plus his Bruna Alpina and Pezzata Rossa cattle and Vallesana goats.
They separate milkings and make cheese twice a day. Hence whole raw milk (the cattle feed solely on grass), copper cauldrons, a temperature of 37°C, no curd knives, breaking of the curd into tiny, irregular granules, no cooking (occasionally semi-cooking), hand-pressing, whey drainage, convex sides, 24 hours in brine and cheeses weighing no more than three kilos – a huge difference compared to most mountain tomas.
In the old days there were 500 mountain pastures filled with livestock here, now there are only a few. Just as there are very few young people involved. Livio is a hope for the future.
Affineur, Piedmont, Italy
Francesco Giolito is a ‘historic’ character in Bra, Piedmont. From his mother Mariet he inherited the experience and passion that led him to found Giolito Formaggi, now a point of reference for cheese enthusiasts not only locally but also all over the world. Mariet was an incredibly inventive workaholic. As early as the first years of the 20th century, she used to pick up cheeses in the Cuneo valleys and distribute them on local markets and in Liguria, whence ships sailed to the Americas. With his wife Emma, Francesco continued market trading and began to source cheeses in other Italian regions. In the early 1970s, the couple’s two sons began to lend a hand at their market stalls. It was Fiorenzo who subsequently carried on the family business and, a few years later, opened the first cheesemonger’s shop in Bra in the 1970s.