What is Bitto?

Bitto is a fatty , cooked and semi-hard Italian summer cheese, produced in Valtellina (Lombardy). It owes its name to the Bitto river, a stream that originates in Gerola Adda and after just 16 km (near Morbegno) flows into the Adda river.

The Bitto production area includes various territories in the province of Sondrio (from the Spluga valley to Livigno, some municipalities in the Val Brembana, Gerola Alta, Albaredo and the San Marco valleys).

Types

Types of Bitto

There are two types of Bitto:

  • Historical rebel Bitto, produced with the traditional method
  • Bitto DOP (Protected Designation of Origin, since 1996), produced in compliance with more recent specifications.

Nutritional properties

Nutritional characteristics of Bitto

The chemical composition of Bitto stands out for the high percentage of fat, which – on the dry substance – does not fall beyond 45%, while the average humidity after 70 days of maturation (minimum time) is around 38%.
Bitto is a food product that belongs to the second fundamental group of foods , that of milk and derivatives .

Together with those of group I ( meat , fish and eggs ), the foods of group II have the function of providing proteins of high biological value , i.e. rich in essential amino acids . Furthermore, they help increase the intake of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin B2 (riboflavin).
On the other hand, Bitto is also very rich in fats, which provide 78% of the total calories of the food. With its 410 kcal per 100g, this cheese is an extremely energetic food and must be taken with an occasional frequency of consumption and moderate portions, especially if you are overweight . Furthermore, it contains a lot of cholesterol and has a breakdown of fatty acids in favor of the saturated , it does not lend itself to nutrition for hypercholesterolemia .

Like all cheeses , Bitto also contains a lot of sodium , which comes from the salt used during maturation. This mineral, if in excess, can aggravate sodium- sensitive primary hypertension . It should also be remembered that the notable concentration of minerals in Byssus, although it can also be advantageous for a healthy organism, is a negative aspect that should not be underestimated for those suffering from certain kidney diseases . Cheese contains small amounts of lactose , which could trigger an adverse reaction for more sensitive intolerant individuals. However, gluten is absent. Its consumption lends itself to the lacto- vegetarian philosophy but not to the vegan one . To conclude, in good health conditions, Bitto is a food that can be eaten twice a week and in portions equal to or less than 80 g (about 330 kcal), as a dish (as a replacement, NOT in addition , meat, fish or eggs).

 

Bitto – Nutritional Values
composition per 100 g
Power 410 kcal
Proteins 26 g
Fats 35.4g
Carbohydrates 0.5g
Vitamin A eq. 850 IU
Soccer 666 mg

 

Food

Gastronomic uses of Bitto

Bitto, as a well-structured cheese, lends itself well to being consumed individually; it is therefore a highly appreciated “cutting” cheese.
Used in cooking, it should be treated as the main protagonist. Stuffed appetizers or those accompanied with Bitto sauces (for example choux) are excellent , as are typical first courses (for example pizzoccheri , spatzle , gnocchi , buckwheat bigoli ).

Among the second courses , some recipes based on pan-fried meat enriched with melted Bitto are renowned (for example pork medallions or veal escalopes ).

The vegetables that best accompany Bitto are cabbage and similar ( savoy cabbage, cabbage , broccoli , Brussels , etc.) and pumpkin.

Bitto food and wine pairings

Bitto can be accompanied by different types of wine .

They are also suitable in different ways depending on the composition of the meal or the recipe: Alto Adige Pinot Noir, Breganze Cabernet, Chianti Classico , Gattinara, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Rosso Piceno Superiore, Torgiano Rosso Riserva and Valtellina Superiore.

Description

What does Bitto look like?

The shape of the Bitto is cylindrical, irregular and with a concave heel for the historical rebel. The maximum diameter is 30-50 cm long, while the heel is 8-12 cm high. The overall weight of a Bitto wheel is between 8 and 12 kg.

The Bitto paste is white, tending towards straw yellow, depending on the maturation. Inside it has sparse holes, with a bird’s eye shape .

The rind is compact, of a more intense yellow and 2-4 mm thick.
The flavor of Bitto is sweet, delicate, strongly aromatic which recalls mountain pasture herbs .

Production

Bitto production process

After milking, calf rennet is added to the milk .

The curd is then cooked between 48 and 52 °C for about half an hour, after which it is broken, extracted and placed in special circular bands to drain.

This is followed by salting, dry or in brine , and a minimum maturation of 70 days which begins in the mountain pastures and ends at the bottom of the valley.

Finally, the shapes are identified and marked.

Differences between Bitto DOP and Bitto rebellious

The milk used for both types of Bitto is fresh, whole and the result of two milkings (morning and evening). However, the production of the two cheeses differs in at least two aspects.

Contrary to what normally happens, the production of Bitto DOP is less restrictive than that of the historical rebel Bitto (Slow Food presidium. Let’s see the main differences:

  • For Bitto DOP it is possible, optionally, to use goat’s milk in quantities not exceeding 1/10 of the total. On the contrary, for the historical rebel Bitto, goat’s milk is indispensable. Some types of historical rebel contain up to 20% goat’s milk and, if processed appropriately, are suitable for ten-year maturation.
  • Bitto DOP (typical of the province of Sondrio and Bergamo) is produced with cows and goats fed on mountain pastures also through the integration of special feed (no more than 3%) and hay (relief only). For the historical rebellious Bitto (typical of Valgerola), however, it is necessary that the animals feed exclusively in mountain pastures, with fresh grass, which is why its commercial availability is limited to the summer months; during the winter period , when the cows and goats return to the stables at the bottom of the valley, their milk is used for other cheese-making products.
  • Both Bittos use cows of traditional breeds but, as regards goats, the historic rebel can be produced exclusively with the Orobica breed (at risk of extinction).
  • The production process of the two types of Bitto can differ in several aspects:
  • For the production of Bitto PDO powdered enzymesare also permitted , while for the historical rebel Bitto the choice is limited to traditional calf rennet.
  • The molds in which the Bitto PDO curd is placed are regular moulds, while those for the historical rebel Bitto are traditional, made with wooden bands that make the surface concave and irregular.
  • The maturation of the historical Bitto rebel takes place only at the Bitto Storico cheese factory in Gerola Alta.

History

Historical notes of Bitto

Bitto is a very ancient cheese. It is assumed to have Celtic origins; more precisely, it should date back to the period in which the Gaulish population took refuge in Valtellina after being expelled from the plains (from the 3rd century BC onwards).
Initially known as “Formaggio Grasso Valtellina”, in 1995-1996 it gained the name Bitto and immediately after the DOP certification.

The separation between Bitto DOP and historical Bitto occurred shortly afterwards.

Given the demanding processing to say the least, Bitto is a cheese with a very low production level and high prices.

To increase production and reduce prices, the DOP consortium partially modified the specifications. The intervention was not appreciated by the producers of Valtellina, who separated themselves and continued to produce the traditional, “historic” Bitto, which in 2016 earned the “Slow Food” protection. In the same year, the Valtellina producers, to differentiate themselves from the DOP consortium, registered the “historical rebel” brand.