Bettlematt Cheese: Sample The Taste And Fragrance Of The Mountain
Bettlematt Cheese is a compact, semi-soft cheese, golden in colour, and is ideal for connoisseurs. Its origins are traced back to the Walser community of Germanic roots.
Producers of Bettlematt
Similar to Fontina Cheese, Bettlematt cheese is a semi-soft cheese, golden in colour and is made in the mountains, and there are only seven producers of it. It is made only in the Ossola Valley in the northernmost region of Piedmont, which shares borders with the Cantons of Valais and Ticino in Switzerland. It is here in Ossola Valley where we find traces of the traditions of the Walser community. Bettlematt cheese traces its origin back to this Germanic community and is produced only from July through to September.
The Characteristics of Bettlematt Cheese
Since 1998, the production regulations have been determined by the Mountain Community Antigorio-Formazza-Divedro, which is now the Mountain Community of Ossola Valley. They define Bettlematt cheese as a high-fat, semi-soft cheese. It is usually made exclusively from the milk of the Italian Bruna (Swiss Brown) breed of cow, with milk from just one milking (meaning no mixing of batches).
The curdling process takes about 40 minutes and continues until the curdled lumps are as big as currants, and then the curdled mix is cooked between 44 and 46 degrees. After which it is placed into a special cheese mould known as a “fascera”. In the mould it is pressed for 12 hours, allowed to dry and set for 15 days, and then either dry-salted or steeped in brine and allowed to mature for 60 days.
The resulting cylindrical cheese is between 4 and 6kg, 8cm thick, and a diameter of 25-35cm. A semi-soft cheese, Bettlematt is small and compact in size and golden in colour with eyes (holes) and the rind is smooth. As per production specifications it must be produced 1,800m above sea level.
To prove that a cheese is authentic and produced in the mountain valleys, the rind is fire-branded with an EU production mark, the date of production, and the words “Alpine cheese made in the Valley of Antigoria and Formazzio”. The fire-branding is applied 40 days after the cheese is made. As per quality control regulations, Bettlematt is not intended to be sold if matured for longer than 60 days, and it is rare to find an example of Bettlematt aged for longer than three years. The texture and flavour undergo subtle changes, which fundamentally alter the cheese’s taste and its colour begins to fade over time. Due to this, there are restrictions on the quantity of Bettlematt produced each year.
Production and Processing of Milk
Traditionally, the milk for Bettlematt has been taken exclusively from a cow of Swiss origins: the Bruna or “Brown Swiss” variety. However over the last few decades the milk of the American derivatives of the Brown Swiss cows has started being implemented owing to desirable particularities in its milk and its high protein content. Where possible, the milk is extracted through the use of mechanical equipment, as the cows move less during milking. This is because limiting the diary cows’ physical exertions improves the quality of the milk.
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