Fontina cheese is a type of Italian cheese made from cow's milk. It has a creamy, slightly nutty flavor and a smooth, elastic texture that becomes softer and more flavorful as it ages. Fontina cheese is aged for at least three months, but it can also be aged for up to one year or more. As it ages, the flavor becomes stronger and more complex, and the texture becomes more crumbly and crystalline.
Fontina cheese is often used in cooking, particularly in dishes where a mild, creamy flavor is desired. It can be melted into sauces and fondues, used to top pizzas and sandwiches, or added to pasta dishes and casseroles. It is also a popular choice for cheese platters and can be enjoyed on its own as a snack. Fontina cheese is typically made in a round or square shape, and it is often sold in slices or wedges. It can be found in specialty cheese shops or the cheese section of many grocery stores.
How Fontina Cheese is Made
Fontina cheese is made from cow's milk, and the process for making it involves several steps:
The milk used to make fontina cheese is collected from cows that are raised on small family farms in the Valle d'Aosta region of Italy. The milk is collected daily and is transported to the cheese-making facility as quickly as possible to ensure its freshness.
The milk is pasteurized to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. It is then cooled and allowed to rest for a few hours to allow the cream to rise to the top.
The milk is then heated to a specific temperature and a starter culture of bacteria is added. The bacteria convert the lactose in the milk into lactic acid, which causes the milk to coagulate, or curdle.
Once the milk has coagulated, the curds are cut into small pieces using a tool called a curd knife. The size of the curds determines the texture of the final cheese.
The curds are then placed into molds and allowed to drain under their own weight. The molds are turned periodically to ensure that the curds are evenly distributed and that the cheese maintains its shape.
The cheese is then coated in salt to help preserve it and to add flavor.
The cheese is then placed in a cool, humid room to age for at least three months. As the cheese ages, it develops its characteristic flavor and texture.
Once the cheese has reached its desired level of maturity, it is packaged and shipped to stores and markets.
Note: The exact process for making fontina cheese may vary depending on the producer and the specific type of fontina being made.
Types of Fontina Cheese
There are several different types of fontina cheese, each with its own unique flavor and texture. Some of the most common types include:
Fontina Val d'Aosta
This is the most traditional and well-known type of fontina cheese. It is made from raw cow's milk in the Valle d'Aosta region of Italy and aged for at least three months. It has a creamy, slightly nutty flavor and a smooth, elastic texture that becomes softer and more flavorful as it ages.
Danish, Swedish, and American Fontina
They are types of cheese made from pasteurized cow's milk in Denmark, Sweden, and the United States, respectively. These cheeses have mild, buttery, slightly sweet, or slightly tangy flavors, and smooth, creamy textures. They are often used in cooking and can be easily melted into sauces and fondues.
Note: It is important to note that only fontina cheese made in the Valle d'Aosta region of Italy can be labeled as "Fontina Val d'Aosta" and carry the DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) certification. Other types of fontina cheese, such as Danish, Swedish, and American fontina, are not made in the Valle d'Aosta region and may have different flavors and textures than traditional Fontina Val d'Aosta.
Some Options of Fontina Cheese Substitute
If you are unable to find fontina cheese or are looking for an alternative, there are several options that can be used as substitutes in recipes. Some good options of fontina cheese substitute include:
This blue cheese has a strong, tangy flavor and a creamy, crumbly texture. It can be used as a fontina cheese substitute in recipes that call for a strong, bold flavor.
Gruyere, Emmental, Provolone, and Mozzarella are cheeses that can be used as substitutes for fontina in recipes that call for a mild, creamy flavor. These cheeses are made in Switzerland, Italy, and have nutty, slightly sweet, mild, slightly tangy flavors and smooth, creamy textures. They can be easily melted into sauces and fondues and are often used in cooking.
Note: It is important to consider the flavor and texture of the cheese you are using as a substitute, as different cheeses will have different effects on the final dish.
How to store Fontina cheese
To store fontina cheese, follow these steps:
- Wrap the cheese in wax paper or parchment paper. This will help to keep the cheese fresh and prevent it from drying out.
- Place the wrapped cheese in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container.
- If the cheese has been cut into slices or wedges, press out as much air as possible from the container or bag before sealing it.
- Store the cheese in the refrigerator, either in the cheese drawer or on a shelf. The cheese should be stored at a temperature of 35-40°F (2-4°C).
- If the cheese has not been cut into slices or wedges, it can be stored in its original packaging and placed in the refrigerator.
- Use the cheese within one week of opening the package or wrapping it in wax paper or parchment paper.
Note: If the cheese has developed mold or an unpleasant odor, it should be discarded.
In summary, Fontina cheese is a flavorful and versatile Italian cheese made from cow's milk. It has a semi-soft, creamy texture and a mild, nutty flavor that makes it ideal for use in a variety of dishes, both on its own and in cooking. If you are unable to find Fontina cheese, there are several substitute options available, including Gruyere, Gouda, and Emmental. These cheeses have similar texture and flavor profiles and can be used as substitutes in many recipes. Ultimately, the best fontina cheese substitute will depend on your personal preference and the recipe you are using.
Meet Iris Janine Freeman, a freelance copywriter and food blogger from the East Coast. When she's not busy crafting the perfect words for her clients, Iris can be found experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen or planning her next travel adventure.