Caprino d’Alpe from Castelmagno

It was during the time I wandered about and.., (Hunger by Hamsun, translated by George Egerton) – no not at all, I did not wander about hungry in Alba. Far from it. September last year, on my way to catch the train to Bra, I had some extra time so I did not go straight to the train station, but rather off the written trail. Serendipity struck and all by a sudden I was in front of a cheese farmer selling the cheese of the cooperative he belonged to. Caprino d’Alpe the cheese was called. If I am not completely wrong there was a farmer alongside him as well selling his Italian salame. But this morning it was all about cheese. I was the only customer, so we naturally had a chat. When he realised I was Norwegian he told me about his travels to my country in general and his coastal express journey in particular. Nice. I, on my part, wandered away with a Caprino d’Alpe, nicely wrapped. I caught the train to Bra and Cheese 2017 as was the purpose for my visit.

caprino d'alpe
Caprino d’Alpe an Italian mountain cheese from the village of Castelmagno in the Cueno province

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There is Parmigiano Reggiano, and then there is Parmigiano Reggiano

From my tiny spot here up north I observe that Norwegians, together with the rest of the world, probably, have taken Parmigiano Reggiano to heart. Aka Parmesan, a French name by the way. We cannot have enough of it. Personally I am more in favour of the Swiss Sbrinz, but it is made only in minute quantities, most of which is consumed domestically. The small part being exported, goes to Italy, of course. I think most of us are approaching the way Italians make use of the cheese, for everyday use. Most Italians though, have some finer Parmigiano Reggiano for festive use, such as Sundays. We mostly don’t. The reason for that is probably ignorance and availability.
I like being precise; so there is Parmigiano Reggiano, and then there is Parmigiano Reggiano. What’s the difference?

parmigiano reggiano
Can you tell whether this is a Parmigiano Reggiano?

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The salt crystals in firm cheeses, what are they?

I suppose you have had firm cheeses, being it alpine varieties or Parmigiano Reggiano and felt the crunch when you chew them. From the questions I am asked from time to time it seems like most of you think they are salt crystals. A most likely assumption, actually. If you look at the cheese, the white spots that oftentimes are so characteristic for this type of cheese might very well lead you to conclude they are salt crystals. Cheese as such is salty as well. But, whatever it is, it feels good and is most charming. Most will probably characterise it as a sign of quality. But this charming crunchy feel between your teeth, is it really salt crystals? Like the flake salt you put on your table?

salt crystals
American Pleasant Ridge Reserve – Extra Aged, showing clear signs of crystals.

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Lactobacillus Helveticus – threatening artisanal firm cheeses?

Poor Lactobacillus Helveticus, what wrong has it done? Nothing really, it’s a lactic bacteria along many others. The thing is, as it often is in this world, too much of it turns out bad. Too little is not relevant in this connection. During cheese making of some cheese styles, like alpine for instance, moderate amounts of this lactic bacteria is included in the starter culture used for making this style of cheese. That’s how it is, that’s how it’s been. It is the Lactobacillus Helveticus that provide the sweet, nutty taste that alpine cheeses are so famous for, especially some of the Swiss ones. For other cheeses this lactic bacteria is not present at all or just plays a minor role. So why is the Lactobaillus helveticus a potential dager to small scale artisanal firm cheeses?
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