The exact date when cheese was first discovered is unknown. Popular legend has it that an Arab shepherd living somewhere near todays Iraq, was carrying milk in a a saddle bag made from a sheep stomach and stumbled upon a reaction between the rennin in the bag (an enzyme in the stomach) and the milk that he was carrying. He discovered how to make cheese.
Cheese has been eaten for thousands and thousands of years, with archeological findings leading us to believe humans were consuming cheese around 6000 BC.Like all good things on the trade route, cheese found its way to Europe. The Etruscans in Southern Tuscany had farms dedicated to making cheese, and the Romans developed a keen taste for this delicious dairy product - even having special eurocheese making kitchenseuro put into their homes, which were used for the preparation and smoking of tasty cheeses.Today there are said to be more than 400 different cheeses in Italy, though only around 40 of these are PDO (Protected designation of origin) by the European Union. (http://www.formaggio.it/italiaDOP/formaggiitaliaDOP.htm
)Cheese is hugely regional, and tastes differ dramatically region to region.Provolone is the eurotraditional' cheese of southern Italy. Provolone can be made with either Buffalo milk or cows milk -or even a mix of both. Sometimes it is smoked using applewood branches, much the same way the ancient romans prepared cheese in their homes thousand of years ago. Provolone can be euroDolceeuro or euroPiccanteeuro. The latter is aged for 6 months or more, whilst Dolce is a fresher younger cheese.Gorgonzola is named after a village once located near Milan (now a suburb) Gorgonzola is a delicious soft blue cheese from the unskimmed milk of a cow. This cheese is only made in Lombardy and Piedmont, and the cheese is made with pure milk (not tainted by chemicals such as disinfectants, pesticides and antibiotics). This cheese is aged between 3 and 6 months, and is often used in cooking.Pecorino Cheese is found throughout Italy. This famous sheep cheese changes taste dramatically depending on where the sheep are from. Pecorino Sardo hails from the island of Sardinia, where it has been made for centuries. The cheese is available in two types; sweet or mature, and is made using old techniques such as heating milk with hot rocks. Pecorino di Pienza was a favorite cheese of Lorenzo the Magnificent. This cheese takes its name from the ancient city of Pienza nearby where sheep have been raised since Etruscan times. Tuma (Pecorino della Langhe) was the traditional cheese of the Piemonte mountains, made from raw milk of their local breed of sheep.Fontina: This cheese also has an interesting history. It hails from the Aosta Valley where cheeses have been recorded since 1200. Fontina is a cows milk cheese, and the milk is worked with on the same morning as milking to keep the flavors genuine and smell fresh. The cheese is matured over 3 months, and requires daily turning by human hands.Cheese fans should pencil in the annual cheese fair in the medieval town of Bra (Piemonte) in September. This fantastic market and fair celebrates the slow food movement, as well as the regions delicious traditional cheeses. Check it out here:http://www.cheese.slowfood.com/welcome_en.lasso
Jessica Morton - Travel agent at Le Baccanti