Salva “Cremasco”

Il formaggio come non l'avete mai assaggiato

The essential elements for good cheese-making are milk, salt and rennet, prepared at the correct temperature. The addition of lactose enzymes, as the case may be, causes the formation of a more compact, glossy, chewy or crumbly cheese.  However,  for  salva cheese even more care is required as its production differs from that of industrial types of cheeses and the intensive treatments needed in the delicate ripening phase are important to its success. The short-term ripening does not, on average, exceed three months and concerns 70-80% of the cheese produced.  The cheese is made in rectangular blocks, initially weighing four or five kilograms each, and are washed weekly with a wet sponge dipped in brine. Preservation is carried out in a refrigeration room, at a temperature of 4°C and at constant humidity. In the third month, after a cautious choice, most of the blocks are sold.  You can also eat the crust of the “novello” or young, white salva. Its slightly sour flavour goes well with salads and tomatoes especially.

The remaining blocks with no cracks or traces of mould, continue to mature up to 7 or 8 months. Around the fourth month, to facilitate the process of hardening the crust, the best blocks are periodically coated with a mixture of cooked linseed oil and aromatic herbs, the presence of rosemary being predominant, as it is considered the strongest natural antioxidant. All these measures are taken in order to avoid the use of chemical preservatives and to prevent any possible deterioration. True extra-mature salva is rare, but much appreciated even abroad and supply struggles to meet demand.  In total, about one thousand cheeses are produced every year.  However, not all producers manage to bring them to such a late stage of ripening, as a number of blocks become worm-eaten, others dry out too much or rot. The weight loss is remarkable too , as each block shrinks by more than one third, and the crust grows considerably harder.
Salva is a cheese made from the processing of unpasteurised milk and is quite a firm cheese with a delicate flavour. With aging it acquires a unique dry taste and goes well with both sweet and spicy side dishes. The classic way to serve salva is  with ’tighe’, which are sweet, green peppers in oil and vinegar, but there are those who prefer to combine it with acacia honey or quince jam, with green olives or ‘mostarda’, fruit preserved in mustard spices.  It can also be served in piquant, extra virgin olive oil, with the addition of peppers and enjoyed together with “pipèto”, a purée made with cabbage, garlic and breadcrumbs. The recommended combination is to eat it with strong,  full-bodied, red wines, such as Barletta, Barbera and Chianti.

In Crema, even the simplest of bread rolls can turn into a delicious sandwich with the addition of some salva cheese.  Other great snacks include the proverbial “pa e salàm”, bread and salami, made with  “bufèt” bread, containing a percentage of maize flour, which stays fresh for a long time and of course salami.  The production of salami, by-product of  traditional pig butchering, ‘norcina’ made by the ‘masadùr’ or butchers, goes back hundreds of years and was already in practice at the time of the Celts.