Piave DOP: The Italian cheese that conquers the world
What are the origins of our foods and how can we learn about them?
When describing the tremendous distance today’s children have from knowing where they food comes from, a colorful example is often cited: some modern kids today aren’t aware that eggs come from the action of a hen actually laying the eggs herself. The exact location of where these eggs come from physically hen remains a mystery for tomorrow’s consumers. There’s plenty of time to still educate the children, but perhaps what’s more alarming is how very little we as adults, as today’s consumers, know about where the food we consume comes from.
Let’s look at milk, for example. We know it comes from a cow, but how many consumers are actually aware that milk is produced by the cow, for its calf, just like with human milk production. And just like with people, that milk production doesn’t go on endlessly, and isn’t naturally available all the time, on-demand, like a TV program.
Who is responsible for ensuring that Piave DOP cheese continues to grow on both local and international markets?
That task falls right to the Piave DOP Cheese Consortium - check out their page to learn more today. To further separate myth from reality, in spite of the marketing images splashed across milk containers, cows are hardly spending their days cavorting in green pastures. Instead, in many agro-business oriented production facilities, these cows are kept indoors and contained, a far cry from what we’re suggested we believe. This is all a reflection however on production methods and innovations intended to keep a lid on pricing that is then passed on to the consumer, who is restrained in the amount they will pay for these dairy products, specifically milk and cheese.
In 2021, the intrinsic value of the PDO (or DOP in Italian) product must also have an environmental characteristic to elevate its worth. I discussed that very notion with Chiara Brandalise, the Piave DOP Consorzio president.
What is Piave DOP?
Before we begin our chat, let me fill you in on what Piave DOP cheese is all about, and what makes it a cheese to try today. Piave DOP cheese is a typical cheese from the Belluno province, a northern Veneto area. Born around the end of the 19th century, the cheese didn’t start off being called Piave cheese. Instead, its earliest incarnations made reference to a general “latteria” type of cheese, produced locally by the “latterie turnarie,” (collective dairies). These dairies owe their names to the system of milk collection, which was handled in shifts amongst participating dairies.
Why is it called Piave Cheese?
The name of the cheese itself is inspired by the river descending from the Dolomite peaks, and was chosen in parallel with the formation of a Cooperative in 1954. Cattle breeding has always been a primary activity in this area, and has provided local communities with a reliable income source for much of its history. Cheese-making became a way of “storing” the milk produced with their herds, and preventing this invaluable nutritional element from spoilage. What wasn’t used on a daily basis in the guise of milk was geared towards the production of the Piave cheese.
"How does the taste and texture of Piave DOP cheese change as it matures, and what are the characteristics of the cheese when it is young and when it is aged?
Adding the the overall smart approach to milk use is the fact that Piave cheese only improves as it ages. When freshly produced, Piave DOP cheese has an overall taste of milk and yogurt - it’s a creamy flavor with elastic body, and entirely absent from holes. With age working in its benefit, the cheeses’ structure and taste completely transform. No matter how aged the Piave cheese, its taste always remains fixedly sweet and never spicy or zesty. The flavor intensifies with aging, reflecting notes of dried fruits and nuts. We can also note a variability of Piave’s texture, as it becomes crumbly and grabnular.
(Porro) What is the relationship between Piave DOP and the mountains?
(Brandalise) Our region is 70% mountainous, and there is an indissoluble link between the mountains and farming: the farms that are part of the Consorzio are required to provide free stabling for their animals. [i.e. the possibility for the animals to move freely in the barn, Editor's note.]
In summertime, many of the cows - especially those not currently producing milk - spend the season in pastures or stables at high altitudes, in the mountain pastures. Upon their return to their home base, around mid-September, they are still welcomed by a popular local holiday, which we call the "festa della smontificazione.” I
n spite of climate change effects, the temperature ranges in our area is still noticeable: nights are cool, but even during the day, the temperatures never become oppressive for the animals. On the other hand, working in the mountains is simply by nature, more difficult and demanding. In the plains, for example, more "cutting" of hay is done, and every single activity becomes more complex when done in the mountains. Everything has a different degree of complexity, from maintenance to breeding.
How do you convey the uniqueness of a cheese when it comes from a country like ours, which produces thousands of them, each with their own peculiarities?
By sharing the history of the land’s connection with its product, in this case, with its cheese. The cheese is produced using raw milk from the mountains, incorporating local enzymes from the milk and whey made from previous cheese batches. The same recipe, made anywhere else, with different enzymes, would naturally result in a different product. Today, when you select a specific cheese, you’re also selecting a series of cultural and historical values that are in each and every wheel produced, and mountain areas with their mountain cheese, are particularly connected to their historic traditions.
We’re both proud and honored to be able to produce Piave DOP, which also helps us in the fundamental maintenance of our local territory. The Piave mountains are a fragile territory in terms of its environment, something we only tend to notice when disaster strikes. Our local cattle farmers are bastions against irreversible local territorial damage, and this specific DOP allows them to profitably have a reason to continue their jobs and defending our lands from environmental concerns.
The content of this promotion campaign represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission and the European Research Executive Agency (REA) do not accept any responsibility for any use that may be made of the information it contains
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