Formai de Mut

Wheels of Formai de mut, marked by the Consorzio di Tutela.

Formai del mut is a cheese produced in the province of Bergamo in Italy. There are twenty one municipalities in the Alta Val Brembana area of that province that produce this cheese.

The name formai del mut means cheese from the mountain in the Val Brembana dialect, where the "mountain" refers to the alpeggio, the highland plateau pasture where the peasants take the cows in the summer time. A limited amount is produced, so this type of cheese is very rarely found outside its production zone. The cheese is produced from the milk of the Bruna (Brown) variety of cows, and the particular flavor of the formai del mut DOP comes from aromatic herbs found in the Alpine pastures, eaten by those cows, which have been raised in this area for centuries.

The rind is thin with a straw yellow color when the cheese is young, but fading to gray with aging. The interior is ivory white, compact and soft. The flavor is delicate and fragrant, as a result of the aromatic Alpine herbs which give the cheese its characteristic aroma.

About 10 liters (2.64 gallons) of milk to produce one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cheese. After the morning and evening milking the milk, is poured in large copper cauldrons which contain up to 3,000 to 4,000 liters (792.5 to 1,056 gallons), and heated to 35° to 37°C. (95° to 98.6°F.) and the curdling agent is then added to it.

The curd is gathered with special fabric filters called pate, then laid inside the traditional round wooden molds called fassere, where it is pressed with artisan's tools. Traditionally the cheese is dry-seasoned in the summer. Each of the two sides is alternately salted every day for eight days, four times for each side.

In summer, the formai del mut DOP is produced high in the mountain, in the so called casere d'alpe. In winter the cheese is produced in the low valleys, by small local dairies at controlled temperature and humidity. In this case the milk used is semi-skimmed, and salt seasoning is made in brine.

The cheese is ready for fresh consumption after 40 to 45 days of maturation, but it can also be aged for over six months.

The finished wheel is marked by the Consorzio di Tutela before being released on the market. It has a diameter of 30 to 40 centimeters (11.8 to 15.75 inches), weighs from 8 to 12 kilograms (17.6 to 26.4 pounds).

The fresh cheese, aged around two months, is best paired with white wines, while with cheese aged six months or longer, gives its best paired with more or less structured red wines.