On a recent trip to Bra for the cheese festival, we visited with old friends at La Casara and tasted through a large selection of their cheeses. La Casara is a family-run operation dating back to the 1920s. This is when Ermenegildo Roncolato and his children, Romano and Angelo, began making cheese in the village of Brenton, in the Ronca municipality (to the north-east of Verona). Now Romano's children, Gildo, Giovanni, and Letizia, run the operation. La Casara is best known for their Monte Veronese DOP cheese, but they also raise pigs and make typical cured meats of Verona.
Monte Veronese is the best known cheese of the Lessini Mountain region of the Verona pre-Alps, which is known for its lush pastures. There are a total of 13 dairies in the consortium that are allowed to use the Monte Veronese DOP label. Production dates back to medieval times when the cheese was originally used for bartering. It was awarded DOP status in 1993. DOP is a name control regulation similar to the French AOC used for food and wine.
The Monte Veronese Malga DOP is the elder statesman of the Monte Veronese family, in that it is aged for at least two years before we get it. The cheese is particularly interesting to us because it is made using milk from cows that have been feeding on the lush pastures of the mountainous Lessinia region. This cheese is special enough to be entered into the Slow Food Presidia, which has a focus on preserving traditional foodways around the world. We find this cheese has notes of tropical fruit, hay and a subtle sweetness that is at once nutty and fruity. This cheese deserves its own place on any cheese plate, but it would work equally well as a grating cheese, or paired with a drop or two of balsamic vinegar.
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Caring for Your Cheese
How much cheese should I buy?
We advise buying small quantities more frequently to avoid long term storage because the complex flavors and aromas of good cheese will change and degrade over time. For appetizer quantities and not much left over, we suggest 1/4 lb per person. For larger servings or if you'd like some left overs, we suggest a full 1/2 lb per person.
How should I serve my cheese?
You can serve any number of cheeses: a single magnificent chèvre or a large selection celebrating the diversity of aromas, flavors and textures found in various traditions around the world. Choose what you like and what you expect your audience will enjoy. We usually go for a selection of three to four cheeses with various milk types, textures and flavors.
Take your cheese out of the refrigerator an hour or so before serving. Just before serving, unwrap each cheese and scrape the cut surface with a knife edge to remove a thin layer. If you notice dried out parts or mold on the face of the cheese, cut it away.
Can I eat the rind?
Most cheeses have rinds and most rinds are edible. If you don’t like the taste or texture, cut it off.
What do I do about the mold on my cheese?
Cheese stored for some time may grow exterior molds. Typical molds will be white or blue-green but you can sometimes come across yellow or gray. Most of the time, you can refresh the cheese by cutting away those affected areas. The cheese underneath will be fine.
How do I store my cheese?
Store in a higher humidity area of your refrigerator - likely an enclosed spot which allows for limited airflow rather than constant drafts.
How do I wrap my cheese?
Use a clean wrap of the cheese paper, or, in a pinch use parchment (for softer cheeses) or aluminum foil (for firm to hard cheeses).
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