Bitto DOP is produced in the province of Sondrio, in the area of Valtellina. Its traditional processing seems to trace back to Celtic times, while the name Bitto means “perennial”, due to its long duration. The Bitto cheese flavor is sweet and delicate, and becomes more intense with its maturation, which in some cases can last up to 10 years.
Bitto is produced exclusively with milk, in summer, using whole cow’s milk taken straight from the cow, adding some goat’s milk in small amounts, in the Sondrio province and neighboring municipalities of the Alta Valle Brembana – Averara, Carona, Cusio, Foppolo, Mezzoldo, Piazzatorre, Santa Brigida and Valleve – and the province of Lecco , Introbio and Premana.
How the Bitto is made
On the mountain grasslands, animals feed on herbs that are rich in nutrients providing a high-quality milk. During the summer, cows are driven in stages from the lowest pasturelands to the highest. Along the way, the calècc, the traditional stone buildings in the valley, are used to process the milk to avoid dispersing its natural warmth, enhancing the spontaneous local dairy microflora. And this milk production is today still completely handmade.
Bitto’s characteristics and shape
The raw milk – just milked – is then coagulated with calf rennet and the soured milk is cooked at a temperature of 48° to 52° C. The seasoning, made in alpine huts, lasts for at least 70 days. The cheese shape is cylindrical, smooth, with a diameter between 30 and 50 cm and with a concave heel with sharp edges of 8-10 cm; the weight varies from 8 to 25 kg. The pasta is white-to-pale-yellow coloured, depending on its age, with a compact structure.
How to taste it
Bitto is used as an ingredient for seasoning risottos and noodles and the famous local pizzoccheri. It is often eaten with polenta, another typical local dish, but it is also excellent tasted as it is, a bit seasoned, with a little locally produced honey and a glass of red Valtellina DOCG wine.