Silter cheese gains PDO
Silter cheese from Valle Camonica and the Brescia territory becomes PDO. The production and storage takes place according to the following disciplinary:
DOCUMENT ‘SILTER ’EU No: IT-PDO-0005-01252 — 6.8.2014
PDO ( X ) PGI ( )1.Name‘Silter
2.Member State or Third Country: Italy
3.Description of the agricultural product or foodstuff
3.1.Type of product Class 1.3: Cheese
3.2.Description of product to which the name in applies Silter cheese is cylindrical in shape, with a diameter of 34-40 cm, and has a straight or slightly convex heel of 8-10 cm. After maturing, the cheese weighs 10-16 kg, while the rind is hard and straw yellow in colour tending to brown following oiling and maturing.
The texture of the cheese is firm but never particularly springy, and it has widespread small to medium-sized eyes. The fat content must be between 27 % and 45 % in the dry matter, while the moisture content may not exceed 40 %.
It is mild in flavour, without bitterness, while very mature cheeses have full-bodied, strong notes. The aroma and flavour linger in the nose and on the palate and are typical of the production area, with the most distinctive notes including dried fruit, the butter and milk of cattle at pasture, green or dried fodder, chestnut flour and silter (i.e. the typical maturing premises used locally).
3.3.Feed (for products of animal origin only) and raw materials (for processed products only)‘Silter’ cheese is produced all year round using only raw milk that is partially skimmed solely by skimming off the cream that rises naturally to the surface. At least 80 % of the lactating cattle on individual holdings must belong to typical mountain breeds (Bruna, Grigio Alpina and Pezzeta Rossa). Cattle of the Bruna breed must represent at least 60 % of all the lactating cows on individual holdings.
Lactating cows must be fed on grass and/or hay, while silage or haylage may not be used. The entire production area of ‘Silter’ is a mountain area, subject to natural constraints such as altitude, gradient and climate, which have repercussions on the seasonal production of fodder. This has an impact on the diet of the dairy cattle.
The percentage of fodder (hay and/or grass) from the production area may not be less than 50 % of the total dry matter fed annually to the lactating cows. The feed may be supplemented by concentrates totalling less than 40 % of the dry matter of the ration.
These percentages are deliberately cautious, since ‘Silter’ is produced in a less-favoured, mountainous area where, in some rainy years, the production of dried fodder (silage may not be used) is sometimes difficult and the production of concentrated feedstuffs is not feasible.
Normally, when the cattle graze on most of the days of the year, the amount of fodder from the area of origin in the ration far exceeds the amounts give above. While grazing is not compulsory, it is practised a great deal in spring and autumn in the valley meadows and in summer in mountain pastures, for a period that varies in line with the seasons. In particular, when the cattle are in mountain pasture, the fodder comes entirely from the production area only and concentrates must not exceed 30 % of the dry matter ingested on average. Compliance with these dietary conditions makes it possible to maintain the organoleptic and aromatic characteristics of ‘Silter’ produced all year round. The specific characteristics of ‘Silter’ are also determined by the microbial diversity of the environment where the raw milk is produced and processed.
Research projects (VALTEMAS 2012, FOOD FOR LIFE 2006) have identified the micro-organisms that play a role in the cheese-making process and examined the enzyme activities that are crucial for the development of the distinctive characteristics of ‘Silter’. In order to combat potential influences from sources outside the production area, cheese-makers have access to a starter kit of enzymes selected from the native microflora. The development of these lactic acid bacteria leads to the formation of the aromatic compounds and tiny eyes typical of ‘Silter’. These bacteria also prevent the development of other bacteria that could change the aroma and flavours of the cheese.
The specific characteristics of ‘Silter’ and its link to the environment are guaranteed by the animals’ diet based mainly on grass and/or hay from the geographical area, the absence of silage feed, the presence of native microflora in the raw milk and the use of technology.
3.4. Specific steps in production that must take place in the identified geographical area.The animals must be farmed and the cheese produced and matured within the identified geographical area.
3.5. Specific rules concerning slicing, grating, packaging, etc. of the product the registered name refers to‘Silter’ cheese is marketed in whole wheels or in portions. Pre-packaged portions of the cheese must include part of the heel and/or the side of the cheese wheel, testifying to the origin of the cheese.
3.6. Whole wheels must feature the ID code of the processing establishment, the production date, the origin mark, the hot brand and, where the conditions have been met, the name of the mountain pasture.
The origin marking on the heel comprises a series of 80 mm high images of human figures from the Valcamonica rock drawings and two edelweiss flowers.A hundred days after production, at least one of the sides of the cheese is to be hot branded with the word ‘SILTER’ written in an arc, with two edelweiss flowers underneath and the acronym ‘D.O.P.’ [PDO] in the centre; between the two edelweiss flowers is another Valcamonica rock drawing depicting a ploughing scene. N.d.r. The label reminds of the ancient graffiti on the rocks present on the area
Pre-packaged cheese must have a label with the identifying logo and the wording ‘Silter D.O.P.’, as well as the information required by law. The logo must be ochre yellow in colour and retain the proportions and shapes laid down.
4.Concise definition of the geographical area
The area comprises the entire Comunità Montana di Valle Camonica [Valle Camonica Mountain Community] and some of the Comunità Montana del Sebino Bresciano [Sebino Bresciano Mountain Community] in the Province of Brescia. A total of 47 municipalities are covered.The geographical area extends from Lake Iseo (a hydrographic basin with an area of 65,3 km2) to the Gavia Pass and Tonale Pass.
5.Link with the geographical area
The production area of ‘Silter’ is a mountain area located in the Alpine foothills and mountains of the Province of Brescia. Both Lake Iseo to the south and the Adamello massif to the north influence and characterise the area’s environment.The differing soil chemistry and variations in climate and temperature allow the development of rich vegetation, with species ranging from those typical of the submontane zone to those of the higher pastures of the subalpine zone. In the montane zone in particular, there are numerous meadow and pasture habitats with a large variety of species that are good for fodder, such as Anthoxanthum spp. and Achillea spp. Valley and mid-slope meadows are used to feed the lactating cows during the coldest months. In summer, meanwhile, the 120 mountain pastures in the higher montane zone provide summer grazing land.‘Silter’ is produced on many holdings, including small ones, which process and thereby conserve their own milk using age-old methods that have been handed down from generation to generation by cheese-makers/farmers. The long maturation period of ‘Silter’ cheese allowed the rural population to keep the product for a long time, ensuring the availability of food all year round.
It is traditional for the skimmed milk to undergo processing in the vat. This goes on for a long time, at least two hours or more, with the curds resting in the whey. This latter stage gives ‘Silter’ its typical particularly crumbly texture and lack of springiness.‘Silter’ cheese has a relatively long maturation period of at least one hundred days after the date of production. This maintains the tradition for the cheese to keep for a long time; indeed, it represented the valley dwellers’ main food source since time immemorial.
Much, but not all, maturation takes place today in the typical premises known as silter, from which the cheese took its name, at a natural temperature of 7-20 °C with 70-90 % humidity. Producers tend to the cheeses as they mature, with the rind being oiled and scraped and the cheeses turned on the planks from time to time. These stages, handed down by tradition and carried out by expert hands, complete the process of ‘Silter’ production.
This production technology is strongly linked to the know-how of cheese-makers who adapt the timing of the cheese-making process to the climate, the flora present and the phenological stages of the cheese. For this very reason it cannot be replicated industrially and remains the preserve of artisan cheese-makers in the valley and the mountains.
The organoleptic and sensory characteristics of ‘Silter’ are influenced by factors linked by the land and environment.
The rind is hard and straw-yellow in colour tending to brown. Its characteristics result from the long maturation periods and all the cleaning it undergoes, including being oiled by hand.
The body of the cheese is hard, crumbly and not very springy, with evenly distributed small to medium-sized eyes produced by the local lactic microflora. It varies in colour from white in winter to bright yellow in spring and summer. The flavour is primarily mild, with bitterness being absent or barely perceptible, while very mature cheeses have full-bodied and/or strong notes.
The endemic plant species that partially make up the fodder contain aromatic compounds such as coumarin and give the milk, and thus ‘Silter’, its specific flavours.
The varying intensity of the cheese’s yellow colour results solely from the fact that the cows are fed on the fodder plants typical of the geographical area, the carotenoid content of which changes with the various phenological stages.
Indeed, carotenoids can cause variations in the intensity of the colour, as both the leguminous and composite plants in the pastures come into bloom at the start of summer, giving the cheese a more intense colour. In winter, the prevalent use of dried fodder means that the cheese is more weakly coloured and tends towards white.
The length and temperature of the various processing stages, from rising of the cream to cooking and the period spent by the curds in the whey, are well known and handed down the generations. Cheese-makers’ know-how allows them to tailor these to seasonal and climatic factors, from the milder climate of Lake Iseo to the harsher climates of the valleys near the Adamello glacier. The distinctiveness of the production technology, which is handed down from generation to generation, is based on the use of raw milk which allows the characteristics of the milk produced in the area and the richness of the local lactic flora to be retained. By tradition and know-how, this technology belongs to local farmers and cheese-makers and allows production of ‘Silter’, a cheese with a mild flavour and a crumbly texture.
The low percentage of fat, which can even be less than 30% in the dry matter, is linked to the fact that only partially skimmed milk is used. As the cream rises, a process that lasts at least eight hours and takes place in a cool, well aired environment, the milk enzymes typical of the production area multiply, giving ‘Silter’ its flavour and aroma. What is more, the multiplication of heterofermentative local flora allows the cheese to develop its characteristic small to medium-sized eyes.
The fact that the curds are cooked and undergo processing for at least two hours, remaining in the vat under the whey, is also vital for the development of the local lactic flora that give ‘Silter’ its flavour and crumbly, not particularly springy texture.
Pressing of the cheese allows the moisture to be drained and rind formation to begin. The hardness of the rind and its colour ranging from yellow to brown result from the long maturation of the cheeses on wooden planks at natural temperatures in premises known as silter and the fact that they are oiled and cleaned.
As the cheeses mature, the enzymes released by the local lactic flora help produce compounds that give the aroma and flavour of dried fruit, butter and silter (i.e. the maturing premises). The presence and variety of these lactic microflora, which are vital for the production of ‘Silter’, have been demonstrated by studies and research conducted at various cheese dairies in the area.
The full text of the product specification is available on the following website: http://www.politicheagricole.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/3335
by going directly to the home page of the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policy (www.politicheagricole.it), clicking on ‘Prodotti DOP IGP’ (at the top right of the screen), then on ‘Prodotti DOP IGP STG’ (on the left-hand side of the screen) and lastly on ‘Disciplinari di Produzione all’esame dell’UE’.