La Cucina Italiana’s September/October issue contains a wonderful gloss of some of Italy’s 450 varieties of cheese, few of which Americans have even heard of, let alone tried. The story (not online, sorry) concentrates on the 34 varieties that have DOP certification—in a nutshell, a protected domain of origin, a classification that requires a given cheese to be made a certain way in a certain part of the country.
Some intriguing cheeses brought to light by the story:
Bitto A cheese from Lombardy, its name derives from the Celtic word for “perennial.” It must be made at an altitude of at least 4,900 feet and only during the summer months.
Bra A slightly spicy and milky cheese when young (bra tenero, or tender bra) that turns pungent and full flavored when aged (bra duro, or, I guess, durable bra). Heh. Bra.
Caciocavallo Silano An elastic, gourd-shaped cheese typically eaten fresh, so named (“cheese on horseback”) because it’s ripened by tying two cheeses together and dangling them over a rod.
Casciotta d’Urbino A sweet, milky, slightly acidic cheese so beloved by Michelangelo that he bought land in the Marche region to ensure he’d have a constant supply.
That’s just up to the “C” portion of the alphabet; cheese-lovers are encouraged to hunt the magazine down at the store.