From English Cheddar to the cheeses of the alpine pastures of Germany, from Portuguese Queijo Terrincho to the celebrated Roquefort d’Aveyron, students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) last week completed a varied program of study trips spread across five different EU countries to discover the many faces of European cheese.
Divided into small groups, the students were assigned a variety of different academic objectives. Those in the UK (in Sussex, Kent, and Bristol) learnt about Stilton, Duddleswell, and Stichelton—a blue cheese made with raw milk—as well as the creamier, smoother Penyston and Baywell. Scottish cheese were also sampled, in particular Lanark Blue, a raw sheep milk cheese, as well as Dunsyre Blue and Mull Island Cheddar.
“It has been a wonderful experience,” says German student Dorte Bode-Kirchhoff. “As well as the large-scale industrial products, we tried some more artisanal cheeses, including Single Gloucester, made with raw cow milk from the animal of the same name, a native breed that is almost extinct.”
Two groups traveled to France, a country for which cheese production is a key pillar of gastronomy. Banon, Laguiole, and Roquefort were some of the well-known products the students encountered among the artisans of the Midi. In Brittany, they sampled organic products made from cow, sheep, and goat milk, learning the secrets of Breton butter, and visiting producers of the Bretonne Pie Noir Cow, a Slow Food Presidium. As Federica Bolla from Italy explains: “Brittany is a region that has shown us many surprises and where we have had the chance to taste many unique products like their fantastic butter, made with Froment de Léon cow milk.” Federica’s colleague, Katharina Stöckel from Germany, adds, “Only 64 of the animals still exist.”
In Lindenberg in Bavaria, the group took part in the tenth edition of the International Festival of Cheese, an event that features the principal cheese makers of the region. “What a stupendous experience,” says Spaniard Carmen Ordiz. “I didn’t realize that Germany placed so much attention on the dairy sector. This study trip showed me so much about the great variety and quality of German cheeses. Many of the producers we visited were run by really passionate young people who want to continue and protect the traditional techniques of their craft.”
The students who went to Porto and the Douro valley of Portugal had the opportunity to meet with sheep farmers raising the Churra da Terra Quente breed, whose milk is used for Queijo Terrincho, a semi-firm cheese with a delicate taste. “In addition to discovering the processes used in making this traditional Portuguese product it was important to understand the symbiosis that arises between humans and animals,” said Italian student Andrea Riboni. “The producers we visited, in addition to greeting us warmly, explained what their life is like, tied to the territory and the products of their land.”
Finally, in Asturias in Spain, the students analyzed two traditional products: Peral, made with cow milk, and the famous Cabrales.
For these future gastronomes, study trips provide an opportunity for multidisciplinary learning about gastronomy and the faces of food production both in Italy and abroad. Students had the opportunity to meet producers, chefs, and professionals one on one, learning and talking with them in their own working contexts. During these visits, students also recorded what they experienced on video, documenting food techniques and know-how from the people and regions they discovered. The overall goal is to contribute to the Granaries of Memory project, a knowledge bank of farmer and artisan wisdom from around the world.
The University of Gastronomic Sciences will be on hand at Cheese from September 16 to 19, 2011, with an informational stand in Piazza XX Settembre, open from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm.
For more information, contact:
Alessandra Abbona or Elena Baravalle
UNISG Communications Office
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele 9
12042 Pollenzo – Bra (CN), Italia