In the verdant valley of Bitto, in Valtellina, it is produced a tasteful mountain cheese, perfect both young and seasoned. We talk about Bitto, DOP cheese from 1996 and Slow Food Presidium since 2003. Bitto cheese production is limited to some districts and pastures in the Bitto Valley, in Lombardia, by a severe regulation, in order to preserve the original features of cheese.
A small group of manufacturers, in order to preserve the traditional rules, also created an exclusive consortium, Consorzio Salvaguardia Bitto Storico, which protects ingredients and original methods handed down from one generation to another. This is what really distinguish the PDO Bitto from the Historic Bitto, which keeps unchanged the connection with the old local customs.
All the wheels of Bitto are made with cow’s milk from the Alpine-brown breed, at 1400-2400 meters high. The Regulation allows using a small amount of goat’s milk (10-20%) in order to make cheese more intense and tasteful. Manufacturers of the Consortium use only milk from goats Orobica or from Valgerola.
The production period of Bitto starts in June and lasts until half/end of September, high altitude pastures inside mountain huts and “calèc”, typical structures of those lands. “Calècs” are rudimental stone built rooms, used to lodge animals at night, and in which there are some copper cauldron to prepare cheese.
The Consorzio Salvaguardia Bitto Storico controls that cows’ food is natural, with mountain grass and herbs. The Regulation allows the use of barley, corn, wheat and other cereals, but not exceeding 3%.
A tasteful cheese as Bitto knows interesting combinations with local precious wines, especially red and full-bodied. Particularly suggested are wines from Valtellina, as Valtellina Superiore Sassella and Valtellina Superiore Inferno, but also Nebbiolo d’Alba, Roccapesta Morellino, Nero d’Avola or Aglianico del Vulture.
In cooking, Bitto is used as a table cheese, and also with some recipes, thanks to the fact that it easily melts and amalgamates with other ingredients. In Valtellina Bitto is used to realize some typical dishes, as “pizzoccheri”, “sciatt” (little pancakes made with some grappa and filled with cheese) and “polenta taragna”, a delicious variety of polenta made with buckwheat. It is important to add Bitto to polenta only at the end of cooking, cutting it in cubes and blending until cheese is partially melt. Try it also to cook risotto until creamy, with some dried fruit (perfect the walnuts) or with some rye bread. You can taste it with blueberry jam or chestnut honey.