The Silter PDO refers to a semi-fat hard cheese made with raw milk from cows fed mainly on fodder from the production area. At least 80% of the animals must belong to typical mountain breeds - Grigio Alpina, Pezzata Rossa and Bruna – the latter of which must represent at least 60% of the lactating cows present on each individual farm.
The production area for Silter PDO cheese comprises the entire administrative territory of the municipalities in the Province of Brescia falling in the mountain communities of Valle Camonica and Sebino Bresciano, in the Lombardy region.
Silter PDO is cylindrical in shape, with a diameter of 34-40 cm, and has a straight or slightly convex heel of 8-10 cm; it weighs between 10 and 16 kg. The rind is hard and straw yellow to brown in colour. The texture of the cheese is firm and crumbly, not particularly springy, with small-medium eyes; the colour varies from white to dark yellow. It is predominantly sweet, either completely without bitterness or only slightly bitter, while very mature cheeses reveal strong, full-bodied notes. The aroma and flavour are persistent and typical of the production area, for example, an aroma of dried fruit and hints of fodder and chestnut.
Silter PDO is best kept in a cool, dry place; if cut into portions, it should be kept in the least cold compartment of the refrigerator. It is excellent eaten on its own, traditionally at the beginning or end of a meal, and pairs well with wines like Franciacorta PDO or Valle della Camonica PGI wines. It is also used to enhance traditional dishes, from casoncelli to risottos and polenta.
Silter PDO is produced with milk from one or more milkings, and must be semi-skimmed for the natural formation of cream. The milk is then placed in the boiler and calf rennet is added to speed up coagulation; this is followed by the breaking of the curd. The curdle is then brought to a cooking temperature between 46 °C and 52 °C, after which it is left under the whey for 20-60 minutes before being placed in the mold and left to drain on the table for 12-24 hours. During this process the wheel is pressed. During the first twelve hours in the mold, the mark of origin is applied to the heel using an apposite band. Salting is carried out by sprinkling the wheel with salt or by placing it in brine, for between 4 and 10 days, depending on the size of the cheese. The wheels are matured on wooden planks in typical premises known as “Silter”, at a temperature between 7 – 20°C and for at least 100 days, during which time the wheels must be turned regularly.
The product is sold year round in the Silter PDO typology. It is sold whole or in portions. The wheels must have both the impressed mark of origin and the
Silter PDO is rich in lactic flora, especially Lactobacillus and Lactococcus, due to the typical mountain environments where the cows are raised and milked. The production area is in fact characterised by a wide variety of aromatic herbs, which contribute to the prized organoleptic characteristics of the cheese.
The production of Silter cheese has ancient origins, as can be deduced from its name, almost certainly of Celtic origin, which corresponds to the Italian word Casera (dairy) and which -in the production area - indicates the maturing room. The earliest documented presence of Silter dates back to the late 1600s, when the dairy processing of milk was the only means available for the conservation of its valuable nutritional characteristics and this cheese was a source of nutrition for the population of Valle Camonica and Sebino-Bresciano. Silter is still of considerable local socioeconomic importance today, because the supply chain involves numerous farms, including small ones, that transform their milk using processing methods that are rooted in tradition and handed down by the dairies/cattle farmers from generation to generation.