The Asiago P.D.O. cheese is one of the most famous Veneto Region products. It takes its name from the Altopiano (plateau) of Asiago, also known as the land of the “Sette Comuni” (Seven municipalities), in the province of Vicenza, between the Astico and Brenta rivers.
Asiago cheese – which in 1996 was awarded the Protected Designation of Origin, the main recognition for premium quality food products in Europe – is made in two ways: Asiago d’allevo (ripened typology) and Asiago pressato (fresh typology). They differ in type of processing as well as aging. The original Asiago, which is closer to the rigorous tradition of local cheese-makers, is without a doubt the d’allevo typology, which is cut only after several months of aging.
Asiago d’allevo is made from cow’s milk obtained from either two milkings (one of which skimmed) or only one partially skimmed milking. The cheese-making process involves the bovine rennet being added to milk heated to a temperature of 35°C. It is then left to sit for about 20-30 minutes. The curd is cut, scalded at about 47°C, and dry salted or brined for several days before being transferred to the storage bays for aging. This is a table cheese that becomes mezzano after 4 to 6 months, vecchio after 10 months and stravecchio when aged for more than 15 months. Asiago has small to medium holes, it is a straw-yellow colour, and can take on an amber hue on aging. It has a sweet taste and the mezzano cheese has a compact texture. The vecchio or stravecchio typologies have a stronger flavour, they are slightly spicy and have a harder, granular texture.
Production of an Asiago typology with a shorter period of aging, known as pressato, began to appear in the 1920s, taking its name from the manual or hydraulic pressing process. Asiago pressato is made from cow’s milk from one or two milkings; it is scalded to 44°C and partly salted as soon as it comes out of the cheese vat. Salting is completed after pressing. It is aged over a period of at least 20 days. Its paste is white or light straw yellow, it has uneven holes and a tendency to be somewhat sweet.