When most people think of cheese from "the Alps" Italy often does not come to mind as we frequently hear about cheeses from Switzerland. Bitto is very special, it is produced in the Valtellina valley in the Lombardy. It is named after the river Bitto, which runs into the river Adda and in turn in Lake Como. The cheese is made in high alpine pastures in the summer from June to September and initially aged in small stone huts that have been used for this purpose since the 1600s (the “Catalogue” by Ortensio Lando details the making of this cheese).
Our version of Bitto is aged at least 12 months. There is even a version of Bitto that is deemed the oldest edible cheese in the world and is frequently sold at over 18 years old! Some wheels have even brought over $7000! Bitto is made with 90% Cow's Milk and %10 Goat's milk.
The cheese received PDO status in 1997 and its production is very tightly controlled. It has the typical characteristics of a mountain cheese (not very salty, nutty, elastic paste). The flavor characteristics are in keeping with its provenance: intense, rich, earthy, grassy. There is a flavor of hazelnuts, straw and grass. Simliar to a Fontina val' D' aosta and other tangy mountain cheeses.
Have this cheese with fresh fruit and dried meats or use in a fondue with crusty bread.
Milk: Cow and Goat , Raw Milk
Country: Italy, Sondrio Lombardy
Accompaniment: Off-dry whites, fruity reds