The other week, Gustav and I had the opportunity to drive down to Italy for a long weekend.
My office was one of the winners of the 2018 Leonardo da Vinci Prize, which was awarded in Florence; so we took the opportunity to make a little detour via beautiful Piemonte.
After a draining train ride from Vienna down to Bologna, up to Milan and over to Turin we rented a car and headed down south to Saluzzo. – I guess I bought the wrong tickets, because the train we hopped on in Vienna was split up near the Italian border, and half the wagons drove directly to Milan … so that’s now on the “what to do different next time” list –
In Saluzzo, of course, first thing the next morning before heading down to Florence, we went to our favorite cheese mongers at the Casa del Parmigiano to find some friends to perk up our breakfast.
Naturally we ended up buying a little more than needed, and naturally all of the finds were delicious.
But today I want to direct your attention to the one cheese that immediately caught my attention. -the Strachitunt
He looked a little dangerous sitting on the counter, tidly packed in plastic wrap – in this case I am pretty sure the protective covering was not only to shelter him from his surroundings but to defend his surroundings from his body odour.
The Strachitunt is a funny little guy. Originating in Lombardy and being exclusively produced in the Bergamo region around the Val Taleggio, the Strachitunt proudly carries the DOP title on his wrinkly, yellow-brownish rind. As an ancestor of the famous Gorgonzola, he belongs to the blue cheeses and also to the Stracchini family. That means he’s one of the cheeses produced out of the milk of the stracce – the tired cows that returned from the mountains in the fall. – even though I have to say that I don´t entirely understand why the cows are tired after a nice summer holiday up in the mountains. But I guess times have changed also for cows, as most of the ones locked in barns would probably love some fresh mountain air.
The Strachitunt is made out of the unpasteurized milk of Bruna Alpina cows and the special twist is that he is made of two batches of curd: the one of the evening milk, the “cold curd”, and the one of the morning milk, the “warm curd”. The two curds are then layered multiple times and left for 12 hours to form a compact paste. The layers never entirely mix into each other but leave room for airpockets, which helps in the follow-up piercing process to let air in and help the natural mold to grow.
The beautiful end-product of harder- and softer deliciousness in one piece, seems to be just held together by moldy veins of different colors from light green to dark brown, that don´t need any support by penicillum to grow to their fullest glory.
Depending on its age the Strachitunt tastes very different. When young he keeps his moldy secrets almost to himself, and when old matures to the “just for the bravest” version Gustav and I found at the Casa del Parmiggiana in Saluzzo.
How it tastes? Well – as usual, you should find out for yourself.
The younger kinds are of course milder and sweeter with a hint of mountain herbs – thus not missing out on the blue-cheese tasting notes. The older ones, as Gustav and I had the pleasure of discovering, also play with your ammonia sensitive taste buds and deliver sharp explosions with a fragrant aftertaste to your mouth. In the case of our old specimen, the soft and partially creamy texture of the young Strachitunt turned into a pleasant, waxy dental experience.
All of it – I tell you – if you have the chance is not to miss!
My tip for the cheese-transporting train traveler: If you don´t want your co-travelers to give you evil looks – get an air-tight container.
Or, if you want the compartment just to yourself – then don´t.