Alpine farm products

The scenery of the mountains of Friuli, from an agricultural viewpoint, is historically linked to the presence of numerous small households, each cultivating their own small plot of land, in all its production and environmental protection aspects, so as to reap all its fruits for themselves and their families.

In the past we had witnessed a slow, irreversible abandonment of shepherding practices in Alpine pastures. Nowadays, thanks to the revival of typical cheese productions, numerous young Alpine breeders are encouraged to renew their interest for mountain agriculture and to make cheese, ricotta and butter with inimitable characteristics.

Those are tasty products with a long tradition, so much so that it can be said that every Alpine pasture brings to the fore multiple taste notes and aromas with their dairy products.

The variety of soils, vegetation, and microclimates of each “malga” and the absolute natural qualities of feed rations for animals make their milk rich in ferments and microorganisms whose number and species are typical of each environment.

This lively microscopic world, which is populated by billions of organisms, along with the characteristics of the buildings where milk is processed and ripened, positively affect the development and the fullness of the aroma of these products.

Malga cheese, smoked ricotta and butter are the dairy symbols of the Friulian mountain; also remember that the “Formadi salât”, the “Cuincîr” and the “Formadi frant”, along with goat cheese, are rightly counted among the historical dairy cultures of our land. The “Cuincîr” or the “Scuete frante” is the just pressed and ground ricotta which, after adding cream, salt, pepper and, sometimes, wild fennel seeds, acidifies and ripens in special containers for 40 - 50 days.

Malga cheese

Formadi di mont, or Çuç, or Formai de malga

Typical of the uplands throughout the region, malga cheese is found in Carnia, Val Canale, Canal del Ferro, near Gemona and in the mountain area north of Pordenone. Its typical cylindrical shape with flat faces presents with an 8-10 cm side, a 25-30 cm diameter and weighs between 4 and 6 kg.

Its rind is smooth and fairly regular. Its paste tends towards the straw yellow colour, variably brilliant, with holes changing in size but uniformly distributed.

It is obtained from the semi-skimmed milk which is milked in the evening and mixed with the whole morning milk, to which some goat milk may be added (max. 15%).

The cheese technology includes the use of natural milk starter cultures in order to improve the microbial flora within the mass and to protect the typical features of the product.

Traditionally the milk, after being poured into a copper cauldron, is heated over a direct wood fire, then it is coagulated with powdered bovine rennet. Then cheese is processed according to the indications for the months from February to July.

Its taste is strong on the palate with pasture vegetable overtones, sometimes accompanied by a slightly bitter, albeit pleasant, aftertaste.

If aged in the “celâr” for a long time, it may even be used as grating cheese, as “Formadi vecjo di mont”.

Smoked ricotta

Scuete fumade di mont

In addition to the malga cheese, smoked ricotta is also produced in all Alpine dairy farms of our region. It is one of the products most appreciated by Friulians and is often included in traditional dishes.

Slightly conical in shape, it weighs between 0.5 ad 1 kg, with a raw, brown surface. The paste is white, dry and grainy in the grating version, while it is softer and pastier in the table version.

It is obtained from the whey left over in the cauldron from cheese processing, and is sometimes enriched with a modest amount of milk. After being brought to the boil, after adding an acidifier sometimes replaced by the “siç” (whey acidified with sorrel and beech bark), the milk becomes ricotta and floats to the surface.

The ladling into bags, draining, pressing, and smoking steps are illustrated by the images for the months from August to September.

It stands out for its delicate taste and for the apparent overtones that emphasize its slight smoking (2-4 days). If this stage lasts for 10-15 days in a ventilated area, excellent grating ricottas are obtained.


Spongje di mont

This product, in Alpine culture, is obtained from the “brume”, the cream that surfaces from the evening milk, rich in lactic ferments and sufficiently acid to produce a high-quality dairy product.

Churning, i.e. beating the cream, helps break the outer membrane of fat globules and separate off the aqueous phase (the “batude” buttermilk). The fatty substance in the fluid phase encapsulates all other components of the cream and is responsible for the butter’s peculiar structure.

While tasting it, the following ought to be assessed:

the yellow colour caused by the presence of carotene in the fresh pasture grass;

the pasty and melting texture changing according to the animals’ food and to the temperature during the technological stages of butter-making;

the odour, which is either stronger or fainter according to the degree of ripening of the cream;

the slightly acid taste due to the ripening milk cream. A good balance is signalled by the fresh feeling it leaves in the mouth.

Since fat has the property of absorbing external odours, storage methods should be chosen with extreme care.