Asiago

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Identikit

Asiago Fresco

Asiago Fresco is a fresh table cheese originating from the Alpine plateau of the same name. A semi-hard cheese of semi-cooked curd with a white, slightly yellowish colour, marked and irregular eyes and a thin, flexible rind. Rich in live lactic cultures, Asiago Fresco has a delicate, soft and pleasant flavour with an agreeable milky aroma.

Asiago Stagionato

Asiago Stagionato is a semi-fat hard cheese with a semi-cooked curd and originates from the Alpine plateau of the same name.
It has a smooth, regular rind, compact or granular texture and a pale yellowish colour with sparse small or medium eyes.
According to the degree of ageing it is characterised by a milder (Mezzano) or more characteristic, sharp and fragrant flavour (Vecchio).

labelProtected Designation of Origin (from 1996)

Characteristics

    Asiago Fresco

    • Average weight of a wheel: 14 Kg
    • Diameter: 30-40 cm
    • Fat content: min. 44%

    Asiago Stagionato

    • Average weight of a wheel: 9 Kg
    • Diameter: 30-36 cm
    • Height: 9-12 cm
    • Fat content: min. 34%

Ageing

    • Fresco: 20 days
    • Stagionato: from 2 to 4 months
    • Mezzano: from 4 to 10 months
    • Vecchio: over 10 months Stravecchio: over 15 months

History

A flavoursome cheese has been produced on the Asiago Plateau from which it takes its name since the year 1000. Initially sheep’s milk was used, but from 1500, with the progressive expansion of cattle farming on the plateau, the primary ingredient has been exclusively cow’s milk.  As cheesemaking techniques developed, production expanded in the early 17th Century to the areas adjacent to the Asiago Plateau: the area at the foot of the mountains, the neighbouring plains and the close-by malghe or mountain pastures of the Trentino region. The Asiago with the oldest roots, closest to the traditions of the cheesemakers of the plateau is the Stagionato version with its more intense, enveloping flavour. In the early 20th Century, the traditions of the PDO area combined with the most innovative cheesemaking technologies led to the birth of Asiago Fresco. The mild, soft flavour of this cheese has helped its international popularity.

Territory

Both Asiago Fresco and Asiago Stagionato are produced in an area that ranges from the irrigated flatlands of the Padana plain to the mountain pastures of the Asiago Plateau and the Trentino region.  The milk production and Asiago PDO cheesemaking area comprises four provinces: Vicenza, Trento and parts of Padua and Treviso. This represents the area in which Asiago cheese was originally made, the Asiago Plateau and surrounding districts in which production of the cheese is widespread. Asiago cheese produced with farmhouse milk entirely processed at an altitude of over 600 metres may also be promoted as a “Mountain Product”.
Only Asiago cheese produced in this area is authentic Asiago PDO cheese.

Production

Asiago Fresco

Milk processing: Asiago Fresco PDO cheese is obtained via the processing of whole cow’s milk. The milk heated in the vat coagulates thanks to an enzyme of bovine origins, rennet, at a temperature between 35 and 40° C, giving rise to the curd.
Cutting of the curd: The lira or stirrer is the instrument used to cut the curd, a process that continues until granules similar in size to a walnut are obtained.
Scalding: In the scalding phase, the curd is heated to a temperature of around 44° C. At the end of this phase, the curd is extracted from the vat and transferred to the work bench.
Salting: On the work bench, the curd is repeatedly cut, dried, salted and turned. In some cases, these operations are automated with the use of continuous production lines.
Moulding and shaping: The next phases involve the moulding and shaping of the cheese and the application to the still warm wheel of progressively numbered casein plaques identifying each cheese.
Pressing and binding: The wheels are pressed with hand or pneumatic presses for some hours.
PDO labelling: The wheels are then placed in branding moulds which impress the Asiago PDO mark on their edges .
Cooling and salting: The cheese is kept for at least two days under controlled temperature (10-15° C) and humidity (80-85%) conditions before dry or brine salting is completed.
Ageing: The final phase in the process is the ageing of the Asiago Fresco cheese, which must last at least 20 days at a temperature of around 10-15° C ageing

Asiago stagionato

Milk processing: Partially skimmed cow’s milk obtained by separation is used to produce Asiago Stagionato cheese. Coagulation is achieved with the addition of an enzyme of bovine origin, rennet, at a temperature of around 35° C.
Cutting of the curd: A spino or curd knife is used to cut the curd.  The process continues until the curd is reduced to grains of a size similar to a hazelnut.
Scalding: In the scalding phase, the curd is heated to a temperature of around 47° C.
Extraction of the curd: The curd is transferred to a work bench.
Moulding and binding: The next stage in the process involves the moulding and binding of the wheels and the application of casein plaques identifying each wheel with a progressive number.
PDO labelling: After a number of hours, the wheels are turned over and branding moulds are used to impress the Asiago PDO mark on the sides.
Cooling and salting:The cheese is kept for at least two days under controlled temperature (10-15° C) and humidity (80-85%) conditions before dry or brine salting is completed.
Ageing: Ageing is the final phase in the process and requires at least two months and must take place in the area of origin in conditions of controlled temperature and relative humidity. On the basis of the degree of ageing the cheese is called:

  • Asiago Stagionato mezzano, aged for between 4 and 6 months: a full but still mild flavour;
  • Asiago Stagionato vecchio, aged for 10-15 months: a shaper, slightly piquant flavour;
  • Asiago Stagionato stravecchio, aged for over 15 months: intense, rich flavours.

Ageing

Asiago Fresco

Asiago Fresco must be aged for at least 20 days at a temperature of around 10-15° C with a humidity level of 80-85%. This must of course take place within the area of origin.

Asiago Stagionato

The ageing of Asiago Stagionato requires at least two months and must take place in the area of origin under conditions of controlled storage temperature and relative humidity. On the basis of the degree of ageing the cheese is called:

  • Asiago Stagionato mezzano, aged for between 4 and 6 months: a full but still mild flavour;
  • Asiago Stagionato vecchio, aged for 10-15 months: a shaper, slightly piquant flavour;
  • Asiago Stagionato stravecchio, aged for over 15 months: intense, rich flavours.

Nutrition

The digestibility, appetizing nature and presence of live lactic cultures as qualities appreciated by nutritionists who suggest Asiago Fresco as part of a balanced, healthy diet. Asiago Stagionato is a product that is much appreciated for its unique qualities and the distinctive flavour differentiating it from any other mature cheese. It may provide up to 50% of one’s daily protein requirements, providing protein with a high biological value.

In the kitchen

An excellent table cheese (the Stagionato version may also be grated), Asiago is suitable for a quick antipasto on its own or accompanied by cold cuts and eggs. It is also recommended as an after dinner cheese, either on its own or with fresh fruit (for example, sliced pears).
It combines well with honey, chutneys and jams and is excellent in sophisticated pairings.

Conservation

Asiago Fresco should be consumed immediately if its full freshness is to be enjoyed. It will keep for up to 10 days in a refrigerator at 8/9° C. Asiago Stagionato may be kept in a refrigerator at 8/9°C or wrapped in a cloth and stored in a suitable room at 10/15° C. It may be consumed up to a month after purchase.