WHAT IS BITTO?
This cow’s milk cheese is made from summer milk in mountain dairies that border the Bitto valley. A small amount of goat’s milk is added along with some calf rennet (an enzyme scraped off the lining of the animal’s stomach that causes milk to clump into curds). The rind is a pale yellow and when cut the flesh has small eyes (holes) the size of rice grains.
The youngest of these cheeses is aged for 2 months, and the oldest can go on for many years. One version of this formaggio that is well known is Valtellina Casera. It is also a D.O.P. cheese that was created about 300 years ago. The Valtellina version is made from the milk of Bruna Alpina cows (milked twice a day) and normally isn’t aged as long.
WHERE IS BITTO MADE?
This formaggio is made in the heart of the Italian Alps in the region of Lombardy. Bitto is named after the local river whose name comes from the German word for “bed” (get it? riverbed). Anyway this cheese is from the Bitto valley where the Bitto river flows past the world famous Bitto fair. Not the most creative of names there, but I guess that long ago most of a person’s creativity was focused on surviving past 30.
HIGH ALTITUDE SICKNESS MIGHT KILL YOU FIRST!
Bitto is made in alpine areas with altitudes over 6,500 feet. Since high altitude sickness can strike at altitudes over 5,000 feet, better take your time getting up there. Though you can get in some nice skiing between snacking on some of this delicious mountain cheese.
WHAT CAN I PAIR WITH BITTO?
It is often paired with pizzoccheri pasta dishes or creamy risotto recipes. Don’t cook with it this, just grate a bit on your finished dish right before serving. In terms of wines, look for ones with a strong character like a red Nebbiolo d’Alba or Nero d’Avola. For cheese plates stay away from other aged, cow’s milk cheeses and go for either a contrast of texture or milk type (triple creme cheese like Delice de Bourgogne or a Humboldt Fog .) If you want to stay with an Italian theme, look to a nice Gorgonzola Piccante or Pecorino Toscano (or Romano).