Piedmont is one of the Italian regions that can be proud of its great number of gastronomic products with the PDO and PGI marks. Among these, we find in particular traditional cheeses, as Bra, which has the PDO mark since 1996.
Bra” cheese is so called because of its place of origin, the homonymous town in the province of Cuneo, even if the story of its name is very curious. In fact, contrary to what we could suppose, it does not come from the town of Bra, but here, many years ago, happened only the seasoning process, while cheese was produced in the surrounding valleys.
However, for the fact that the town was an important junction for the commercial trades, travelers and merchants usually bought this cheese, particularly resistant and durable, in Bra, so they simply got used to call it with this name, transporting it worldwide during their journeys.
The production of “Bra” cheese undergoes a sever Regulation, essential to guarantee the respect and the compliance to the finished product, preserving it from imitations and counterfeiting. In fact it is only following the clear indications imposed by the Regulation that “Bra” cheese can gain all its features that make it so special and appreciated between the Italian and foreign gastronomic scene.
In particular, cow’s milk used to produce “Bra” DOP cheese comes from farms in the province of Cuneo. The manufacturing and seasoning processes, instead, can occur even in the town of Villafranca Piemonte.
The Regulation concerns also the kind of food given to the animals, exclusively based on green or conserved forages, from the areas imposed by the Regulation. In particular, for what concerns “Bra d’Alpeggio”, we talk about a cheese made exclusively from cow’s or mixed milk of animals fed with green grazing lands in Piedmont.
The productive steps follow the same rules of the ancient time, adding just some details that make cheese more sure and genuine. Cow’s milk, alone or added with a small part of goat’s and sheep’s milk, is pasteurized, to enhance the respect of hygienic and sanitary rules.
Milk is added with starter bacteria and rennet, to reach the right coagulation at low temperature. Then, occurs the curd’s break, in a first moment with rotary movements and then using a press. Curd is finally pressed and put in the specific molds. The following step is the double addiction of salt, dry or in brine.
The last passage is seasoning, which requires different periods depending on the kind of cheese. We find a minimum of 45 days and a maximum of 6 months, respectively for soft and hard “Bra”.
Bra cheese can be easily recognized from the presence of a mark on the lateral faces, with the name of cheese, the number and the brand of the manufacturer. Standing to the Regulation, each wheel must be indicated with another label, essential to recognize the original “Bra”. On the label there is the PDO mak, the name and the original symbol of cheese, represented by a man with a moustache and a hat, who has a wheel of cheese in the hands.
Manufacturers must also specify clearly the kind of cheese, so we will find a different name, depending on seasoning and place of origin, as: “Bra Tenero”, “Bra Duro” or “Bra d’Alpeggio”, if it is produced in the mountain areas in Piedmont included in the Regulation. Standing to this distinction, the color of the label will change. It is red for “Bra Tenero”, brown for “Bra Duro” and green for “Bra d’Alpeggio”.
Taste and characteristics
Bra” has different taste and features depending on the seasoning time.
Bra Tenero is a soft cheese, white or ivory, with an elastic texture and thin holes.
Bra Duro, instead, is a hard cheese, straw-yellow or ochre, and a compact texture.
Rind is not edible in both the cheeses, but it differs from some features. The soft kind has a grey, elastic and quite smooth rind, while hard cheese has a rigid, light brown and a little bit greasy rind, because of the oil put on the surface to avoid molds.
For what concerns the taste, we talk about a cheese great for all the palates. Thanks to the different periods of seasoning, “Bra” is able to satisfy every taste. “Bra Tenero” has a delicate, fresh and not too salty taste, great for meals and luncheons. “Bra Duro” instead has a more intense and hot taste, very salty compared to the soft cheese.