Monte Veronese Dop cheese: charateristics, history, production method and ideal pairing
Monte Veronese DOP is a typical cheese from the Veneto region.
It is produced in the area that corresponds to Lessinia, Mount Baldo and the foothills of the Alps.
The northern part of the province of Verona (in the north of Valpolicella land) is particularly suitable for grazing. The Lessini Mountains are exposed to the south, have gentle slopes and a rich vegetation. These characteristics of the territory allow to leave the herds in the mountain pastures for a period longer than the normal one.
For these reasons, in the area there has always been an important tradition in cattle breeding, from which derives the milk used to produce this delicious cheese.
It is a cheese that, although still little known to the Italian consumer, boasts a rapidly growing diffusion. In a market oriented to the research and development of typical products with a strong bond with the territory, Monte Veronese DOP cheese has history and tradition to sell.
The history of this exceptional cheese is ancient and much debated.
According to a first reconstruction, at the beginning of the 13th century, the then Bishop of Verona, Bartolomeo della Scala, granted to the Cimbri shepherds, a Germanic population from the Asiago plateau, the use of the lands located in the Lessini Mountains, at that time almost totally abandoned and uninhabited. This population, dedicated to cattle breeding and to the production of cheese, gave origin to an important dairy tradition that was handed down for all the following centuries.
At that time this cheese was such a valuable product that it was a precious exchange merchandise instead of money.
There is a second legend about the origins of this table cheese. Documents dating back to the thirteenth century make reference to a cheese very similar to Monte Veronese, but never identified with that name. With the fall of the Scaligeri family, around 1400, who controlled the important wool market in Verona and the pasturelands of Lessinia, a significant migration of Lombard cheesemakers began, who gradually introduced cattle breeding in Lessini, in addition to the traditional sheep breeding.
Despite its ancient history, it was only at the beginning of the eighteenth century that the cheese took on the name “Monte Veronese“, a precise and unmistakable reference to the province of production.
The term “Monte“, however, does not refer to the territory, but derives from the dialect term “monta”, which means “milking”: the cheese, in fact, is made using a production method that involves curdling the milk from more than one milking.
This cheese product was awarded the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata – Denomination of Controlled Origin) in 1993 and the DOP (Denomination of Protected Origin) in 1996. In the same year, a voluntary consortium called “Consorzio per la tutela del formaggio Monte Veronese DOP” (Consortium for the protection of Monte Veronese DOP cheese) was established, which united all the producers of this dairy product. Today, the Consortium, whose main purpose is the protection and promotion of the product in Italy and abroad, has thirteen member companies, all of medium-small size.
Method of production
The production process of this cheese, while developing with continuity, has maintained unchanged over the centuries the traditional characteristics.
Monte Veronese DOP is first of all a semi-cooked cheese produced with whole or semi-skimmed cow’s milk, obtained from the fine breeds Frisona, Bruna and Pezzata Rossa.
The small production area and the use of raw milk make the quality standard of this cheese particularly high.
There are two types of cheese on the market, which differ not only in taste but also in the way they are made: Monte Veronese “Latte Intero” (whole milk) and Monte Veronese “d’allevo” (bred).
Let’s start with Monte Veronese “Latte intero” cheese.
As its name suggests, this cheese is made exclusively with whole cow’s milk from one or two consecutive milkings.
The raw milk is inoculated with the addition of selected milk enzymes (strictly from previous production in factories in the production area). The curd is obtained with calf rennet powder, which is cut to the size of a grain of rice and left to settle on the bottom of the boiler, heated to reach a cooking temperature of 43-45°C for 10 minutes. There it rests for about 25 minutes before being placed in the mold.Salting takes place either dry or in brine after a purging of about 24 hours. Maturation cannot be shorter than 25 days and is usually completed in about 40 days.
In order to better appreciate its characteristics it is advisable to eat it within 60 days from production.
Its crust is thin, of a more or less intense straw yellow color. The paste is white, slightly tending to light yellow.
The smell of this cheese is very similar to that of fresh butter.
Monte Veronese “latte intero” cheese has a delicate taste, reminiscent of freshly milked milk, cream and fresh butter.
According to the specifications, the weight of the whole cheese must be between six and ten kilograms. The diameter of the faces ranges from 25 to 35 cm and the height of the heel (slightly convex) must be from 7 to 11 cm.
Monte Veronese “d’Allevo” is produced with partially skimmed cow’s milk, also from one or two consecutive milkings. In this case, too, the raw milk is inoculated with selected milk enzymes (strictly from previous production in factories in the production area).
On the market there is also another variant, “d’allevo” (from the farm), produced exclusively with “malga milk” collected from cows in the mountain pastures in the period from May to October. It has a decidedly stronger flavor, like a typical aged cheese. With aging, moreover, it tends to become slightly spicy to the taste. The cheeses can be distinguished from the others thanks to a mark (the “M” of “malga”, in fact) branded on the heel, next to the D.O.P. mark.
For the “malga d’allevo” type, the partially skimmed milk is coagulated with the addition of calf rennet for 25-30 minutes.
The curd is heated up to 46-48°C for about 15 minutes, with subsequent rest in the boiler for further 25-30 minutes. After salting, either dry or in brine, and subsequent draining, the cheeses are aged for a minimum of three months and up to two years.
Like Monte Veronese Latte Intero, Monte Veronese DOP d’Allevo also has a thin rind, of a more or less intense straw color; the paste is white or light yellow in color, with scattered holes.
The flavor is stronger, almost spicy, because it is more mature.
According to the regulations, the weight of a single cheese ranges from six to nine kilograms.
The height of the heel (slightly convex) is from 6 to 10 cm, while the diameter of the faces is from 25 to 30 cm.
The seasoned d’Allevo version of Monte Veronese is the most traditional. There are two other types of Monte Veronese, depending on the type of maturation, the Monte Veronese di Allevo mezzano and the Monte Veronese di Allevo stravecchio.
The former has a maturity that varies from 3 to 6 months. The flavor is, therefore, sweeter on the palate. The size of the cheese varies from six to nine kilograms and has a compact, even if still soft, straw-colored paste, with small and medium-sized eyes.
Stravecchio, on the other hand, has an enveloping, intense and penetrating flavor and the paste will be harder and grainier, with fairly small eyes.
The minimum maturation period for extra-mature Monte Veronese cheese is about one year and the weight of each wheel varies, according to the regulations, from six to nine kilograms.
There is also a version aged in the marc of Amarone: the mold is left in contact with the fermented skins with the must still in them. They are then dried and aged. For this reason the cheese is called Monte Veronese ubriaco (drunk).
Monte Veronese has two interesting projects underway to valorize and differentiate the product: the Slow Food presidium for malga cheeses and the production of this cheese using only the milk of the Bruno Alpina breed.
It should be noted that many producers avoid pasteurizing the milk in order to leave intact the peculiarities of the cheese conferred by the grazing diet of the cattle.
Monte Veronese DOP is kept in the least cold compartment of the refrigerator. Wrapped in its original packaging or placed in plastic or glass containers, it keeps its freshness and flavor longer. If vacuum-packed, it can keep for up to six months.
A good producer that also offers guided tastings of cheeses and cold cuts is Corrado Benedetti located in Sant’Anna D’Alfaedo. Near to Benedetti’s shop there is Bosco allegro: a large green park equipped for barbecues with seating, small houses and gazebos to spend a beautiful day in Lessinia. Near Corrado Benedetti there is the Ponte di Veja (the Veja Bridge), a must to see!
Monte Veronese can be eaten as a single dish, even accompanied by other cheeses. It is recommended, especially for fresh cheeses, to be paired with rather bitter jams, such as those made with citrus fruits, or with a honey with a strong flavor, such as chestnut honey.
Latte intero cheese can be used to cook first and second courses. Ideal to flavor polenta or rustic cakes, for example. The “d’Allevo” type, on the other hand, due to its longer maturation and spicier taste, can also be eaten at the end of a meal.
To all this, add a good glass of red wine with a slightly fruity aftertaste.
In particular, a fruity wine such as Valpolicella Classico is suitable to accompany your Monte Veronese “latte intero” cheese. It has a slightly fruity and delicate aroma, therefore it is suitable for fresh cheese, as well as for first and second courses of meat. The taste is full bodied and dry.
Amarone della Valpolicella Classico is suitable for Monte Veronese d’Allevo, as it is aged.
Speaking of traditions, for the past thirteen years San Zeno di Montagna has been hosting the “San Zeno Castagne, Bardolino & Monte Veronese” event: on this occasion, autumn chestnut cuisine meets local wine, Bardolino, and Monte Veronese cheese in various menus created by the best chefs in local restaurants.
Recipe of the territory: pork fillet with porcini mushrooms on a Monte Veronese sauce and Lessinia truffle
Ingredients for the fillet
– one pork tenderloin
– 100 grams of fresh porcini mushrooms
– 4-5 slices of lard
– q.b. rosemary
– qb salt and pepper
– qb garlic
– kitchen string to tie the meat
Ingredients for the fromage sauce
– 100 grams of butter
– 250 grams of grated Monte Veronese d’Allevo (possibly extravecchio)
– 350 grams of liquid cream
This recipe is quick and easy.
Start by cutting the fillet lengthwise. Open it and stuff the inside with lard and porcini mushrooms previously sautéed in a pan with a clove of garlic. Close the meat with kitchen string and add salt and pepper in the desired quantity.
Brown everything in a pan with oil, rosemary and garlic on high heat and then bake at 100 degrees.
To prepare the cheese fondue it takes about 15 minutes: melt the butter in a small pan, add the cream and when it boils add the Monte Veronese DOP d’Allevo cheese grated in small flakes.
Once the sauce has been prepared and the fillet is cooked, it is time to serve.
Pour two spoonfuls of sauce in the center of the plate, lay two thick slices of fillet on top and sprinkle with truffle.
Accompany with a glass of good red wine Amarone della Valpolicella and enjoy!
And there is also the recipe of the famous Risotto all’Amarone!