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
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.