More adventures! My best mate Luigino, the dairy man has recently taken me to an incredible place.
Close your eyes and imagine: Fresh air, emerald green grass, breathtaking views and a lump of deliciously creamy fresh cheese slowly melting in your mouth. Welcome to the world of the “malghe” (or “malga” if it’s only one); these are dairies which are located high up on the mountains.
There are several malghe in Friuli Venezia Giulia, in North Eastern Italy and they are all different from each other; the majority are family run. We visited the “Malga Montasio” where the well known semi-hard, mild and creamy cheese “Montasio” comes from. This is the cheese I eat all the time when I am in my home town in Italy.
Malga Montasio is situated on the Julian Alps at 1500-1800 meters above sea level on a territory of 1064 hectars with half of it devoted to pasture. In this beautiful spot you can perform various sports including hiking, mountain biking or just go for beautiful walks in the various paths of the area.
Often the malghe are only inhabited during the summer months. The farmers take their herds up to graze on the rich, green pastures after the the winter snow has melted.
The cheeses made in the malghe are highly prized and for a good reason. The cows grazing on such an amazing variety of grasses, herbs and flowers will produce a very creamy and super delicious milk and therefore an incredibly flavoursome cheese.
This is proper slow food: in the dairy everything is made by hand. The guys wake up early in the morning to milk the cows and then they make the cheese. Just like in the olden days! Fascinating!
I watched the guys making ricotta. I have now seen this process several times but I can never get bored watching it over and over again.
The fresh steaming warm ricotta made me want to grab a slice and put it straight in my mouth. A ricotta from the malga is creamier and richer than ordinary ricotta. A slice on top of some rustic bread is just heaven, it simply melts in your mouth.
In the back room I could see the cheese dipped into salty water. This is a process all cheese has to go through.
The cheese is then stored on the shelves and left to age.
You can often eat in malgas and sometimes stay overnight too.
Or you can just buy some cheese and local meats and carry on with your walk.
There is a white flower known in Italian as “Stella Alpina”, “Alpine star” (Leontopodium or Edelweiss in German) a member of the daisy family which in fact looks like a star. It grows at high altitudes in the cold mountainous regions in Europe. I saw several up here, I have always loved it since I was a child.
During my visit to this place I felt as if the distractions and stresses of the outside world were put on hold for a while. It felt good. The mountains have the power to calm your mind and to stop all the constant chattering of your mind.
I shall be back here very soon.