Italian Farmhouse Cheeses
I have a lot to apologize for. I have made some comments in the past about just how superior French (and French-speaking Swiss) cheeses are to Italian varieties. I even had the nerve to call Italian cheeses “uniformly pleasant and salty”. Talk about killing with faint praise. When I moved to Italy having spent the previous 6 weeks in Paris, I had expected cheese horizons in Milan to be as broad as those in Paris. They are not. This is a calculable fact. I can cite the 30-some Italian DOP cheese varieties but there are 30 French AOC varieties just made from cow's milk. I experienced only 2 cheese epiphanies in Italy: “sweet” gorgonzola and real buffalo mozzarella.
My perspective changed completely last Sunday and I’[m here to make my amends. On an afternoon drive through the country outside Turin (the Susa valley, to be exact) we stumbled upon an Agritourism farmhouse strangely named “Corbusier” (the cheese house is in the photo on the right) where they sold their own cheese. As we opened the door to the unheated cheese storage room, we were punched in the face by the heady, Frenchy, cheesiness of it all. We knew we had come to the right place. There on a huge, wooden table lay about 15 varieties of Tommes, Reblochons, and goats in various stages of ripeness. What you see above are the orange-rinded Reblochon (at 12:00), the "pura capra" (pure goat's milk cheese)at 2:00, a ripened goat cured in grappa at 4:00, a sublimely oozy cow's milk cheese called Paglierina at 6:00, and a cow's milk Toma aged under "vinaccia" (the squooshed grape skins after wine-making at 10:00. You can still see some of the dark grape skins on the rind.
They are as tasty as they are odiferous! In fact we learned on the way home that if you want enough elbow room on a crowded metro, a ripe Reblochon is your friend.