A semisoft Italian cheese that is earthy and full-flavored when aged. Often served as a dessert cheese and with hors d'oeuvres.Fontina cheese is a classic Italian cheese, although variations are made in several other countries as well. Depending on where the cheese comes from and how long it has been aged, fontina can be semisoft to firm in texture, with a range of flavors from mild and creamy to more intense and pungent.
All fontinas must be made from cow's milk. As a general rule, the milk is usually raw, and the best fontina cheese is made from milk which is as fresh as possible. The interior of the cheese tends to be a rich straw yellow to pale cream in color, and it is classically riddled with very small holes. The milkfat content is usually around 45%, so the cheese tends to be very rich and creamy, with a nutty flavor which gets stronger with aging. The cheese also melts very well, and it is sometimes included in fondue and similar dishes.
Selecting and Buying
Fontina cheese is a softer cheese originating from the Italian Alps where a specific breed of cows are raised in a pristine micro-climate and milked to produce the creamy milk rich in natural vitamins and flavors for this cheese. The totally organic, nutty-flavored cheese was popularized in North America by the Danes, but you can try to make your own version. You will not be able to call it Fontina since your ingredients and procedure will be different, but it will be similar.
Gather the fresh, unpasteurized, organic milk from a grass-fed cow. It should be fresh, no more than two hours old, if possible. If no such milk is available, use the freshest whole milk you can find.
Heat the milk and rennet in a stockpot to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove it from the heat and allow it to sit covered for one hour so the rennet has a chance to curdle the milk.
Strain the curds through the layers of cheesecloth and squeeze to remove as much of the whey as possible. Place the curds into a prepared sterilized mold and press for 12 hours.
Remove the cheese from the mold and store on a pine shelf in a cave or basement where the humidity is a high 80 to 90 percent and the temperature is about 50 degrees (F).
Rinse the cheese with brine every other day and brush it on alternate days to prevent buildup of mold on the rind. Flip the cheese daily so the bottom is exposed to the air, allowing the rind to harden equally all over. Repeat this process for three months or more.
Preparation and Use
Fontina is excellent served on its own or with crackers. Remove the rind of the cheese before using. Fontina melts very well and is easily grated. It is good for sauces, pasta dishes and fillings, lasagna, risotto, rice dishes, gratins and soufflés. It also is great with meat and poultry, in sandwiches, soups, baked potatoes and polenta. Fontina pairs very well with certain white wine varietals.
Conserving and Storing
How to Store Fontina Cheese
Delicious, semi-soft fontina comes from the Aosta valley in the northwest of Italy. An essential ingredient in gratineed pasta dishes like macaroni and cheese, you can make sure that your fontina lasts longer by following a few simple storage steps.
Before you store fontina cheese at home, examine the cheese block and make sure that it is free of blemishes and signs of mold. Except with blue cheeses, visible mold means that the cheese is spoiled and must be discarded.
Choose an appropriate container for the cheese. Rindless, semi-soft cheeses like fontina should be stored in a plastic food container that maintains a humid environment for the cheese. A plastic container can also isolate these softer cheeses from the chance of absorbing flavors from other foods.
The ideal temperature for storing fontina is 35 to 40 degrees, which is close to the average temperature of a home refrigerator. Fontina also tends to freeze better than other cheeses. Freezing, rather than refrigerating, can extend the life of the cheese for a number of weeks.