Fontina PDO is a semi-cooked cheese, obtained from whole cow’s milk produced by Valdostana cattle breeds (Pezzata Rossa, Pezzata Nera and Castana).
Whole or raw milk is used for production and must be processed within a few hours from milking. The milk, brought to a maximum temperature of 36°C, is curdled with calf rennet. The curd is broken until the grains are the size of corn kernels, after which it is reheated for about half an hour until it reaches a temperature of 48°C, stimulating the purging of the whey. At the end of this stage it is left to rest for 10 minutes, after which it is placed in molds containing the casein marker showing the progressive product number; it is then pressed for around 12 hours while being constantly turned. Before the last turn, the identifying mark of the Consorzio Tutela Fontina (CTF) – Fontina Protection Consortium - which also indicates the producer’s ID code, is imprinted on one of the flat faces of the wheel. The cheese is then salted and ripened in cool, damp natural caves for at least three months.
Appearance and Flavour
Fontina PDO has a thin and compact rind with a brown colour that varies in intensity depending on the age of the cheese. The semi-cooked cheese is soft and elastic, with characteristic eyes scattered throughout; it is rich on the palate, with a colour ranging from ivory to a more-or-less intense straw yellow. Its flavour is sweet and delicate.
The production area of Fontina PDO is within the territory of the autonomous region of Valle d’Aosta.
In historical documents on the Valle d’Aosta, the name “fontina” recurs frequently. Since the mid-1200s there is evidence of the De Funtina family and 100 years later we can read about the De Fontines. There is also much documentation on the use of the name for indicating different places, such as fields, land and villages. The use of the name “Fontina” when referring to cheese gradually increases in the archives; first as a substitute for vacherinus, combined with seras and then, from the XVIII century on, it is unmistakably used for the characteristic cheese. For many centuries Fontina was produced where it was possible to obtain large quantities of milk; in the highlands. During the winter most of the local families only possessed a few cows. It was only at the beginning of the XIX century that dairies were built and milk for processing was then pooled with a cooperative spirit. Fontina PDO is an offspring of the mountains and took its name from the noble houses and recurring toponyms of the Valle d’Aosta.
Fontina PDO keeps well in humid environments of 10-12°C and should be placed on wooden slats. In the fridge it should be kept in food bags in the least cold compartment, with the cut end covered in foil; the cheese should be taken out of the fridge about one hour prior to consumption. It may be used as a table cheese or as an ingredient in other dishes. Without doubt, the most well-known dish with Fontina PDO is the Valdostana fondue. It is often used as an ingredient in the preparation of crostini, appetizers and first courses, such as polenta, gnocchi, stuffed pancakes, as well as being eaten on its own as a simple snack. It pairs well with light white, rosé and red wines.
The product is marketed as Fontina PDO. It is sold year-round in whole forms, large pieces, and pre-packed slices.
During the first month of ripening, Fontina PDO is turned every day, alternating between one day of salting and one day of brushing; these processes promote the development of Fontina PDO’s characteristic rind.