Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Expanding my cheese knowledge, one cheese at a time

As you know, The Chef cooks at a local upscale wine and small plates joint. He is surrounded by amazing wines and incredible cheeses, lots of beautiful charcuterie and ingredients to cook with. In the time he has been there he has been exposed to more types of cheese than in any other restaurant he has cooked at before. I love hearing the stories about what new cheese they got in, how he used it, what he paired with it. While I consider myself to be pretty well educated in cheeses, now and again he will tell me about something I have not heard of. Of course, I accept this as a challenge, and run off to the closest cheese counter and grab some to play with at home. Today it's Piave.

So let's learn a little bit about Piave cheese. I did some research online and learned this cheese is an Italian cow's milk cheese. It comes from the Province of Belluno in the Veneto region. Like so many food and drink, wine, oils, and so on, cheeses often have a DOP- a Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which is a Protected Designation of Origin. Europeans take their cheese, sausages, hams, balsamic vinegar, oils and olives, and winemaking seriously! These designations are assigned to food products depending on where they were produced. If you were to make this same exact cheese, using the same exact ingredients and process, but say you lived in Sicily- you cannot use the name Piave. 

Piave is what is called a hard cooked curd cheese. I had never heard of this before- I am no cheesemaker, that's for sure. Cheeses made in this fashion are cheeses that have had the milk curds heated during production, no more than 132 degrees Fahrenheit, and no less than 118 degrees. Cheeses we know as hard cheese are made in this way- such as Parmesan, and the melting cheese Emmenthal and Gruyere, and others. 

The cheese is available in five different "ages"- Piave Fresco is a very young cheese, aged only 20 to 60 days. Piave Mezzano is aged 61 to 180 days. Piave Vecchio is a cheese that's been aged more than six months. You have to wait more than twelve months to taste Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro, and more than eighteen months for Piave Vecchio Reserva.

Sampling the cheese was heaven. It's very nutty and very firm, but not as dry as Parmesan. It seemed to be almost a cross between Parmesan and Swiss cheese, both in flavor and consistency. It has a strong aroma and creamy color. I shredded it to top our pasta for dinner- it shredded fairly easily when cold from the fridge but became a bit crumbly as it warmed up a bit. It wasn't overpoweringly salty and it wasn't as strong as Parmesan. This cheese would be amazing in salad or sprinkled over onion soup. I wish I had a big glass of Grenache to enjoy with this cheese- it would pair beautifully.

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