Product of the week: Castelmango
Josep from Gastronomica talks about a very special, centuries old cheese from the Italian mountains
Castelmango comes from La Poinana in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy close to the French border. It has been made in the region for centuries, and was developed by the monks who lived at the local monastery and sold to the surrounding villages. Eventually the locals learned how to make the cheese and asked the monks for permission to produce it themselves.
Castelmango has DOP status which strictly controls where and how it can be produced. It should be made using full cream milk from the Piedmont cow, a breed indigenous to the region – though on some occasions local sheep or goats' milk may be added. The animals must be fed by grazing on open fields or fed on hay from local pastures, which gives the cheese its distinct flavour. This means that the flavour varies from year to year depending on local grass conditions.
Once the cheese has reached the white crumbly stage it is left to mature, developing its own natural oxidation on the surface. This extra development gives the cheese its distinctive intense flavour. It is a dry cheese which sometimes develops blue veins. This happens as the rind cracks, allowing the air into the cheese which allows the blue to develop.
Castelmango works very well with lots of different pasta dishes, but it also goes well with risotto as the slight edge to the flavour contrasts well with the creaminess of the dish. The locals also eat it a lot with Barolo, a rich, fruity red wine that is also produced in the area and goes especially well with the cheese's intense flavour.