WHAT IS PROVOLONE?
This is that 3 foot long cylindrical yellow cheese hanging from the ceiling of very old Italian shops (new stores can’t do this because of local laws but older stores grandfather in having done it before the laws were even created). Created in southern Italy in the 1800s, provolone is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that comes in 2 types – Dolce (sweet or younger) and Piccante (sharper or older). Most of the provolone served in the States is Dolce and a faint industrial echo of the good stuff. In both cases, during production, the curds are stretched or pulled, giving it a more elastic texture.
WHERE IS PROVOLONE MADE?
Most of the Italian production of the traditional version is in the Po River Valley. This is in the Italian region of Veneto and Lombardy. Unfortunately the industrial version of this cheese can be found pretty much anywhere outside of McDonalds.
WHEN DO I CAPITALIZE THE NAME OF A CHEESE?
For some reason the word provolone is often capitalized. Boo! Boo on you sir / ma’am / whatever. The rule in cheese is that if a name is also a geographic location (Valençay, Brie, Parmesan after Parma) you capitalize it. So if it is not, you don’t captalize it. Et voila!
WHAT CAN I PAIR WITH PROVOLONE?
With piccante most beers will work along with white wines like Chianti and Pinot Grigio or Rose or even light red wines. While Piccante in particular is a great cheese, I tend to avoid using it on cheese flights. This is a great cheese to use in salads and in cooking. Sadly today the cheap, bland industrial versions have become commonplace. While it might be difficult to find, try an authentic original provolone to see why this cheese became so popular to begin with!