Montebore is a cheese made with mixed raw whole cow's, goat's and sheep's cheese. It may be soft or semi-hard, according to the length of aging time. The shape is very characteristic, a pyramid with a round base made of 3 or 5 cheeses of different diameter.
Dimensions:Weight 0.5-1.2 kg, height 3-10 cm, diameter varies from 9 to 17 cm.
Rind: Absent in fresh cheeses, thin and yellowish white with a few wrinkles (known as “camisa”, due to aging on hay) in 5-6 day aged cheeses.
Texture: Compact, soft, white. In older cheeses (12-15 days) tends to become more creamy.
Flavour: sweet like milk, delicate with hints of hill and mountain forage essences.
Preparation of milk: Raw milk comes from two or more milkings, kept as needed in a milk fridge at 4 °C.
Coagulation: Milk temperature 35–37 °C, the quantity of rennet (animal) must be sufficient to complete coagulation in about 35-40 minutes.
Cheese vat processing: The curds are milled with a rod or cheese lyre into rough pieces and allowed to rest briefly. They are then milled a second time with lyre or skimmer into pieces sized between a corn kernel and a hazelnut. The curds then rest for 20 minutes.
Further processing: The curds are removed and placed in food safe moulds with dimensions of 9, 13 and 15cm so that 3 sizes of cheese are shaped. The cheeses remain in the dairy or in a drying room (22–25 °C) for 12–24 hours. They are then dry salted or brined. 4-6 hours after dry salting or 1-2 hours after brining the cheeses are washed with warm slightly salty water and laid on top of each other in decreasing size to make the so-called ”Castellino” or little castle, in some cases 5 cheeses are used.
Aging process: A minimum of 5-6 days for the ""Morbido"" or soft version and a minimum of 25 days for the ""Stagionato"" or aged version. The premises used for aging must have a temperature between 12 e 17 °C, with relative humidity of 80–85 %. The cheeses are washed with water or salted water during the aging period to eliminate any undesired mould and give the rind its ""washed"" yellow-orange colour. A traditional version of Montebore is preserved in oil. This can be prepared only after the cheese's humidity level has dropped significantly, so that it can be grated. The outside rind is removed, the cheese is grated and/or crumbled, put into jars and covered with olive oil then hermetically sealed. In this case it is called Montebore “comodà”."
MATERIALS AND SPECIFIC EQUIPMENT
Heated cheese vats made of copper, drainage cloths, wooden boards (e.g. cherry or black hornbeam wood) for the aging process.
DESCRIPTION OF PROCESSING PREMISES
Production premises conforming to current health and hygiene legislations. Aging premises: refrigerated rooms or cellars/caves with geologically natural walls, floors and ceilings that safeguard the hygienic conditions of the product.
"After being forgotten for years, Montebore has regained popularity in the last decade, even if it remains a niche product. It used to be well known around Genoa, in the area southwest of Alessandria and also around Pavia.
The first historical records date back to Medieval times. It is mentioned in a document from 1300 in a menu for a banquet held in the production area.
There are two theories behind the characteristic ""castle"" shape of the cheese. The first is that this shape stopped the small cheeses (which were of varying dimensions according to the amount of milk available) from drying out too much. When the cheeses are placed on top of each other, they stay softer when they are aged. This was also done in other areas of Piedmont with ""tomino"" cheeses. The second theory on the other hand maintains that the cheeses were piled up in order to take up less space in the cellar.