Asiago

CHARACTERISTICS

Fresh Asiago
Fresh Asiago cheese, also called Pressed Asiago, is produced with whole milk and left to mature for at least 20 days. White or pale straw yellow in colour, it is characterised by marked irregular eyes and its flavour of freshly milked milk. It is delicate and agreeable, and melts pleasantly in the mouth, leaving an irresistibly sweet yet delicately acidic note.

Aged Asiago
Aged Asiago cheese, also called Asiago d’Allevo, is produced with partially skimmed milk and left to ripen for from 3 to more than 15 months. Straw yellow in colour, it is characterised by small- or medium-sized eyes. Its decisive and flavoursome taste increases as it ripens. This type of Asiago can be divided into two different types: Mezzano (which is aged from 10 to 15 months) and Stravecchio (which is aged for more than 15 months).

HISTORY

Tasty cheese has always been produced on the Asiago Plateau, from which Asiago cheese takes its name, since the 11th century. Initially goat’s milk was used, but cow’s milk took over in 1500 as a result of the progressive increase in cattle breeding on the Plateau and has been used ever since. The dairy technique developed and, during the early years of the 17th century, production widened to include the Piedmont area, the adjacent plains and the nearby Alpine huts of Trento, which are all near the Asiago Plateau. The Asiago produced for the longest time, which is closest to the cheesemakers from the highlands and with a more intense and involving flavour, is the Aged type. Fresh Asiago started being made during the early years of the twentieth century, always in the DOP area, using traditional systems combined with the most innovative dairy technologies. The soft, smooth taste of this cheese has made it an international success.

 

TERRITORY

Both Fresh Asiago and Aged Asiago are produced in an area that ranges from the irrigated meadows of the Padua plain to the mountain pastures of the Asiago Plateau and Trento. The area where the milk is collected and where Asiago DOP is produced includes four provinces: Vicenza, Trento, and a part of Padua and Treviso. It is the Asiago Plateau area, where Asiago cheese originates, and the surrounding territories, through which production of this cheese spread widely. Asiago cheese produced with milk from farms and transformed entirely above 600 metres can carry the additional title of “Mountain product”. Only Asiago cheese that is made in this zone is authentic Asiago DOP cheese.

Map of Italy

PRODUCTION

FRESH ASIAGO

Transformation of the milk: Fresh Asiago DOP cheese is obtained from the dairy transformation of whole cow’s milk. The milk is placed in a hot-water heater, where it coagulates through the addition of rennet, an enzyme from cows, at a temperature of between 35 and 40°C. This process adds body to the curd.
Cutting the curd: A cheese lyre is used to cut the curd until it becomes small, about the size of a walnut.
Partial cooking: During the partial cooking phase, the curd is taken to a temperature of about 44°C. After this phase, it is removed from the vat and placed on a workbench.
Cutting the cheese: The cheese on the workbench is cut repeatedly, allowed to dry, salted and then kneaded. These phases are automated at times through the use of “continuous” processing plants.
Portioning: The next phase is portioning; the mixture is placed in moulds, where progressively numbered casein labels are applied to each round while still hot, making them identifiable.
Pressing and wrapping: The rounds are pressed using manual or pneumatic presses for several hours.
Origin marking: The forms obtained in this manner are placed in marking wraps to etch the Asiago DOP logo on their rind.
“Frescura” and salting: “Frescura” is when the cheese is kept for at least two days at a controlled temperature (10-15°C) and humidity (80-85%). After this period, the rounds are checked before being salted; the salt is applied either dry or by washing the rind with brine.
Ripening: The last preparation phase is the ripening of Fresh Asiago cheese, which must be kept for at least 20 days at a temperature of around 10-15°C and a humidity of 80-85%. This must be done within the area of origin.


AGED ASIAGO

Transformation of the milk: Cow’s milk is used to make Aged Asiago, after being partially skimmed by natural surface skimming. Coagulation is obtained with the addition of rennet, an enzyme that derives from cows, at a temperature of around 35°C.
Cutting the curd: A whisk is used to cut the curds, continuing until they reach the size of a hazelnut.
Cooking the curd: During the cooking phase, the curd is taken to a temperature of about 47°C.
Removing the curd: The curd is then placed on a workbench.
Shaping and wrapping: The mixture is then shaped, wrapped, and progressively numbered casein labels are applied to each round.
Origin marking with marking wraps: After a few hours, the forms are turned over and the Asiago DOP mark of origin is etched into the cheese rind by marking wraps.
“Frescura” and salting: “Frescura” is when the cheese is kept for at least two days at a controlled temperature (10-15°C) and humidity (80-85%). After this period, the rounds are checked before being salted; the salt is applied either dry or by washing the rind with brine.
Aging: The last phase is aging, which must last for at least 2 months and carried out inside the zone of origin. The rooms where the rounds are kept have controlled storage temperature and humidity. The cheese name varies according to the aging period:
• Asiago Stagionato mezzano, aged from 4 to 6 months: full flavoured but still sweet;
• Asiago Stagionato vecchio, aged for 10-15 months: decisive, slightly sharp flavour;
• Asiago Stagionato stravecchio, aged for more than 15 months: intense taste that is full of flavour.


NUTRITION

Digestible, appetising, and with lactic acid bacteria: these qualities are appreciated by the nutritionists who propose Fresh Asiago for correct, healthy eating.
Aged Asiago is much appreciated for its uniqueness and the great personality of its flavour that separates it from any other aged cheese. It can contribute up to 50% of a person’s daily calcium intake, and also contributes proteins of high biological value.

ON THE TABLE

An excellent table cheese but also ideal for grating (if aged), Asiago is suitable for a quick appetiser to be enjoyed by itself or with cold cuts and eggs. It is also ideal at the end of a meal, served naturally or with fresh fruit (e.g. pear slices).
Combines well with honey, fruit preserves and jam, excellent in sought-after tastings.

KEY FIGURES

In a difficult year for the domestic milk-cheese sector, Asiago cheese, during January-November 2016 confirmed growing consumer appreciation with a gratifying +2.3% (IRI-INFOSCAN data) of consumption and an increase in the index of market penetration.

Abroad, Asiago cheese exports, from January to November 2016, continued to increase with good performance in the United States (+11.8%) and Australia (+16%), both increasing for the third consecutive year. Australia, in particular, impresses for the first time as the third-place export destination market after the USA and Switzerland, topping even Germany’s +7% increase.

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