Cow's and Gats's milk
Bitto Valli del bitto
The historic home of Bitto production is the Gerola and Albaredo valleys formed by the torrential river from which the cheese takes its name, in the province of Sondrio. Bitto is made
in the mountain pastures of these valleys, at 1,400 to 2,000 metres above sea level. The cheese has some very distinctive characteristics. A series of traditional techniques bring out the quality of the product, as well as playing a crucial role in the conservation of the environment and Alpine biodiversity. The most important of these techniques is rotation grazing. Over the three
summer months, the herd is led from pasture to pasture in stages that take it from lower-altitude grazing to the highest pastures. Along the way, traditional calècc (a contraction of casa and letto,
meaning "house" and "bed") bothies act as temporary dairies so that the milk only has to travel a few metres, and can be processed before it loses its natural warmth.
Another local practice is to take Orobica goats to the summer pastures with the herds of cattle. Goat's milk accounts for 10-20% of the content of Bitto, giving it a particular aromatic quality and persistence of flavour. Milking in the high pastures is done exclusively by hand, to ensure the health of the herd. The cheese is generally dry-salted so that as delicate a rind as possible forms, to guarantee more satisfactory maturing. All fodder supplements, additives, preservatives
and selected enzymes are prohibited during the production process.
The Slow Food Presidium was set up to promote mountain dairy production in the traditional cheesemaking area. Only the cheeses that are adjudged to be of outstanding quality and suited to special maturing - they can conserve superbly fragrant sensory perceptions even after maturing for a decade - are branded with the mark of the Valli del Bitto Producers' Association. The working practices adhered to by the association's members have a positive impact on both the quality of the cheese and the environment. It is crucial that this situation should be acknowledged by the market, and that the producers should receive fair remuneration for their fundamental role in conserving the environment. Once the mountain pastures have been abandoned, degradation quickly sets in and is almost impossible to reverse.
Outer rind: thin, straw-yellow becoming brown in colour over time
Body: compact, with sparse, bird's eye-sized eyes
Top and bottom: flat, 30-50 cm in diameter
Height/weight: 8-10 cm / 8-25 kg
Territory of origin: the valleys of Albaredo and Gerola, and the neighbouring mountain pastures in the province of Sondrio
The descriptions of the cheeses you can find in this section are taken from the book Italian Cheese, edited by Slow Food Editore