Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bettelmatt a VERY rare cheese

Bettelmatt fire brand with the edelweiss

Bettelmatt production area

Bettelmatt is a very rare cheese produced by only 7 communities in Val d'Ossola, on the upper tip of Piedmont, almost at the border with Switzerland. This cheese is produced only on alpine pastures at about 7200ft/2100m above the sea level. a very limited production of high quality cheese. 

Only about 3,000 wheels of Bettelmatt are produced every year between June and August, in the very few alpine pastures of upper Piedmont.
Back in the past the wheels were brought down to valley by mule but nowadays helicopters are used.

Bettelmatt is a kind of toma cheese whose first official document dates back to 1710. Since 2003 each wheel gets fire branded to guarantee it's quality and distinguish it from imitations.

making Bettelmatt
Bettelmatt origins

Bettelmatt is also called "mottolino" from the herb that gives it its most distinct flavor. It's been produced since the Middle Ages when the Walser colonization started.
Walsers are an Alpine population speaking a German-like dialect, who migrated from Southern Germany through Switzerland and settled in Austra, the upper Rhone river valleys and in 9 communities of Northern Italy.
Back then, Bettelmatt was used as money to pay for rents and taxes but not only. In fact, it seems that its name derives from the German "battel" meaning offertory and "matt" which means pasture.                                                                                    So it was also used for charity purposes.

Macugnaga Walser costumes
Walsers are famous for their traditional costumes and how they change according to the community. Traditionally, the women of the Bettelmatt communities of Macugnaga wear a white lace petticoat, called underock and a roch or knee high wool sleeveless dress, with a white linen blouse, called halbhamd, whose cuffs and neck are of handmade lace.
The richest part of the traditional tracht - costume is the liberoch or bodice: of black velvet with gold embroidered edelweiss, ears of wheat and other mountain flowers.
There is also a foscher or apron which is usually of black silk or colored for the young maids.
A colored ribbon is used on the waist as a belt, bendal. On their heads, women wear a lumpii, a bright ankerchief made of silk or wool, with fringes. Black stockings and shoes.

The bettelmatt cheese production area, up in the Ossola Valley is at about 2h driving from Milan and yet these vallys are so quiet and peaceful, fully immersed in the nature.
Just imagine how poetic the Christmas Holidays can be here and how cool it is to hike the peaks in the summer!

Val Formazza in the winter

Bettelmatt facts

Val Formazza in the summer
- color: intense yellow
- texture: compact and soft paste with different size holes
- rind: smooth
- scent: intense with alpine grass notes
- it ages for at least 60 days
- the average altitude of its production is 2100m/ 7200ft above sea level
- It's a PAT cheese which means its production method is traditional and regulated by the Italian law
- it's produced in only 7 alpine pastures

Bettelmatt pairings

You can include Bettelmatt in many dishes but its typical alpine flavor is enhanced in the local specialties like bettelmatt frittatas, Ossolana gnocchi (with pumpkin!) from its native valleys, risotto with Bettelmatt and champagne, aromatic honeys, fresh fruits, especially Passacrassana pears, rye bread and polenta.

Wine wise, you can pair it with any full-bodied red wines, "meditation" wines and naturally, Erbaluce di Caluso Passito.

Bettelmatt flan with pickled pears and spicy blueberries

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