Tag: history

The history of Branzi cheese and polenta taragna – Italian Cuisine

The history of Branzi cheese and polenta taragna

The recipe of polenta taragna orobica and its close link with local cheeses, especially with Branzi

We had already talked about the seven 7 Bergamasque cheeses of the Orobie principles, but we had not focused on how and thanks to those who have become so important. And to do this, we have to start right from the home of one of them, or Branzi and his eponymous cheese. In fact, perhaps not everyone knows that Branzi, before being a cheese, is a town in the Upper Val Brembana, in the province of Bergamo; and that, also here, the well-known polenta taragna also originates, although widespread in all the valleys. Thus, for years, in this small mountain town, Branzi went ahead to produce, especially during the historic one Fiera di San Matteo, the penultimate weekend of September, where they were fighting well at the auction 10 thousand forms of cheese. Until the Midali family has changed the course of things once and for all.

The birth of the Social Dairy

It was Giacomo Midali in 1953, a dairyman of Branzi, who has the great intuition to start collecting and blending milk all year round from the various farmers in the area. The aim was to seasonally adjust the product and give continuity, without being relegated only to the summer pasture (which derives from "it goes to the worst") or to the sale at the fair. In this way it would have ensured a more constant entry to the producers, avoiding that they abandon the trade and therefore the mountain pastures and the territory of the Upper Val Brembana, as instead was happening in those years. He is also responsible for the birth of the FTB brand, that is Branzi's Cheese, so that the origin of this product compared to the others was clear. Over the years, the number of companies that donate their milk has only grown, reaching about fifty: all small businesses, which mainly breed alpine brownies, without feed, in the wild in the summer. This is how Branzi was produced throughout the year, even if the difference between theinvernengo and thesummer (of a more intense yellow for grazing) is heard. But the processing of whole and raw milk still happens as in the past, in a traditional way, with the only difference that today both milkings are used, while in the past only the evening was used. Then you can consume either fresh, after 60 days, either seasoned, after 180; but also Stravecchio, over 12 months.


Today the Midali family, now in its third generation, has not stopped having good and great ideas. It is the case of Francesco Maroni, grandson of Giacomo and current director of the dairy, who has never had any doubts about continuing what his grandfather started. "How could I do anything else, making cheese is the best thing there is and Branzi is the best cheese in the world". Thus was born, from the awareness of having behind such an ancient and so important dairy history, the idea of Forms (from 17 to 20 October), an event that for the first time brings together all the orobic cheeses, the FPOs and the 9 PDOs (out of 50 in Italy). If initially the goal was to enhance local dairy production, now it has become a national movement, with cheeses from all over Italy, but not only: there are also cheeses from the rest of the world. Eco the reason why this year will host i World Cheese Awards, or the Cheese Olympics which for the first time make an Italian stop. But the news has not ended: they are all waiting, in fact, to know the verdict from UNESCO, to which they recently presented the candidacy of Bergamo – Cheese Valley in Creative City. Last but not least, together with the Tre Signorie Association, it is always Francesco who worked so that one of the most famous and emblematic dishes of the area would be codified, without leaving this task only to the oral transmission.

Original recipe of polenta taragna orobica

Polenta taragna appears already in the work Nova Novorum Novissima from 1604 by the Bergamo poet Bartolomeo Bolla. But without going too far back in time, suffice it to say that Giovanni Midali was the father of the taragna, ol tata de 'la taragna, who in 1945 opened a restaurant in Branzi where he thought of preparing the polenta with butter and local cheese: the Branzi indeed. In 1965 he moved to Bergamo, where he continued to cook taragna in the new Sole restaurant, although he was not on the menu. In the room of his son Chicco, instead, the taragna almost disappears and is only rarely prepared, for friends or on special occasions. The rematch takes place only afterwards thanks to his son Alberto, who along with his wife Ornella opens a trattoria in the upper town where it becomes the main dish. Today the two continue to prepare it Al Bertonella by Alzano Lombardo, according to the original recipe deposited at the Chamber of Commerce of Bergamo.

Ingredients for 6 people

800 g Spinato di Gandino corn meal or Rovetta Rosso rostrato
600 g fresh FTB Branzi cheese
200 g Formai de Mut DOP, or Historic Rebel
150 g mountain butter
4 liters of pure spring water
salt to taste
sage qb
garlic to taste


Heat the water in the copper pot, add salt and, before it begins to boil, slowly pour in the flour, stirring constantly with the tarell (da tarai), the long wooden stick from which the name derives taragna, so that no lumps are formed.
Stir for 50-60 minutes to obtain a polenta of a certain consistency, but it does not last.
When cooked, add the diced cheese. Stir slowly. The cheese must not melt completely, it must spin while maintaining part of the consistent nut. At this point, pour the previously browned butter into a pan with the sage and garlic cloves.
Pricking the polenta with the wooden stick, let it penetrate the dough without stirring. Serve it very hot with a wooden spoon or ladle.

Birth and history of broccoli, from the Etruscans to the present – Italian Cuisine

Birth and history of broccoli, the vegetable with extraordinary beneficial properties: from the invention of the ancient Romans to the spread in Europe, up to the landing in America

In the very wide variety of vegetables "made in Italy", one particularly worthy of interest because of his valuable nutritional properties and the broccoli, or the cabbage variety notoriously little loved by children. This vegetable, a real cure-all for our health, is now widespread in most of Europe and the world, but few know that it originated in southern Italy. Let's go then to discover the main stages in the history of broccoli, starting from the Etruscans and the ancient Romans and arriving until the landing in the United States.

Broccoli, the vegetable loved by the Etruscans and ancient Romans

The cabbage family, to which the broccoli belongs, he was much loved by the Etruscans, who appreciated both the taste and the beneficial properties.
This ancient civilization of skilled navigators was in fact devoted to cultivation and it is thanks to the Etruscans and their famous Mediterranean trade that the cabbage also reached the Phoenicians, the ancient Greeks and the populations of the current islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. Big cabbage lovers were also the ancient Romans, so much so that the famous naturalist Pliny the Elder, between the years 23 and 79 AD, wrote about how this civilization used to cultivate and cook them. It is to them that the merit of the creation of the first variety of broccoli, called Calabrian broccoli, as well as the etymology of the term that derives from the Latin brachium, ie arm, branch or sprout. It is said that the Romans used to boil broccoli along with a mixture of spices, onion, wine and oil (as evidenced in the cookbooks of the Apicius gastronomist) or serve them accompanied to creamy sauces prepared with aromatic herbs or wine, as it is said that they used to eat them raw before banquets to ensure that the body absorbed alcohol better.

The sapling-shaped superfood that has conquered the world

There broccoli spread outside the Italian territory he began in 1533, when Caterina de ’Medici married Henry II and introduced this precious vegetable into the French court, of which at the time were also part of Italian chefs. After France it was the turn of theEngland, where the broccoli were nicknamed Italian asparagus, as mentioned in the 1724 edition of Gardener's Dictionary by Miller. In both countries, broccoli became popular with the passage of time, but the initial reception was not the best, also due to the unpleasant smell of sulfur emanating during cooking. In 1922 two immigrants from Messina brought broccoli seeds to California, giving rise to the first plantation in the city of San Jose, and then contributed to their distribution also in other cities. In the United States, unlike European countries, these vegetables established themselves rapidly and successfully, and already in the 30s their popularity was consolidated.

Around the world in the last thirty years, thanks to new cooking methods and new discoveries on health benefits, including antioxidant properties that help prevent some forms of cancer, the consumption of broccoli has tripled. The most known and loved varieties are the Calabrese, rosette-shaped, and the Romanesco broccoli, known for its pyramidal shape with many small spiral rosettes.

Photo: broccoli_Pixabay.jpg
Photo: history of broccoli_churl_Flickr.jpg

History of cheddar, the cheese invented by chance in England – Italian Cuisine

The history of cheddar cheese, an English delicacy that has become one of the most popular varieties in the world thanks to its strong flavor and its characteristic deep yellow color

Never like the last few years cheddar cheese has become a global product, distributed in more and more countries and ubiquitous in the fridge counter. Although, as often happens, the varieties sold outside the country of origin often leave something to be desired in terms of quality and are mostly packaged in practical bags, the real English cheddar has a very different taste and texture and above all it is a very respectable cheese. Let's go then to analyze what are the characteristics that distinguish a DOP cheddar, as well as to retrace the milestones in its history, from the origin to the first industrial production, up to its diffusion in the rest of the world.

(Flick: Scorpions and Centaurs)

The story of the yellow English cheese born by chance

It is said that cheddar, like other famous cheeses, is born of a happy accident. The episode dates back to 1100 when the milkmaid of an English village forgot, for an entire day, to go and get a bucket of milk left in a cave, a very common practice at the time to preserve and keep food cool. Thanks to this forgetfulness what he found the next day was hardened milk, the first cheddar in history. Officially this hard cheese is born in a village called Cheddar, in Somerset in the south west of England, where it was probably produced for the first time in the 12th century. This area is characterized by the high presence of caves, a humid environment and the ideal constant temperature, then as today, for the aging of the cheese.
At the time the cheddar came handmade and handcrafted by local farmers, and was intended for farms or for sale to neighboring producers. The turning point in the history of this cheese was the birth of the first dairy of the area, by Joseph Harding, nineteenth-century Somerset dairyman nicknamed the father of cheddar cheese. Thanks to its modern production techniques, it would have seen the light of what can be considered in all respects the first real cheddar in history. Thanks to him and his family, the cheese would soon have made its triumphant appearance in other countries, from Scotland to North America to Australia and New Zealand.

Over the years, the production process continued to improve and focus on efficiency, durability and appearance. In this period also the color of the cheese underwent various variations, depending on the period of the year or on the grazing habits of the cows. To make it more uniform and more brilliant, the producers began to add them annatto seeds with a dark red color and used as a natural dye since the Aztecs.

What distinguishes the classic cheddar recipe

Let's start by saying that the real cheddar should have an intense flavor, at times pungent and earthy, with a sweet note due to the annatto seeds, and that the consistency should be slightly friable. According to the Cheddar Presidium, created by the Slow Food movement, only three varieties of cheddar fall under the DOP certification, as they are made using traditional methods.
The real cheddar is in fact to be considered only that made by hand with raw milk of excellent quality e animal rennet. It is also essential that after the phase of the production process dictates cheddaring, that is the moment in which the curd is kneaded, cut into cubes and turned, followed by a phase of maturation inside a cloth, for a period not exceeding 24 months.

In short, forget the artificial cheddar, vacuum-packed and matured in plastic that you find in supermarkets, the real cheddar is the outside that awaits you, for a tasting not to be forgotten.

Photo: grated cheddar cheese_pixabay.jpg
Photo: history of cheddar_Flickr_ Scorpions and Centaurs.jpg

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