The area of production of Montasio cheese is defined as follows:
- the Friuli Venezia Giulia region: the entire provinces of Udine, Pordenone, Gorizia and Trieste
- the Veneto region: the entire provinces of Treviso and Belluno and parts of the provinces of Venice and Padua.
The production technique has evolved while retaining the original concepts. The milk is, in fact, transformed into cheese using gentle techniques that do not cause particular damage to the original microbial and bacterial flora. Fresh raw milk that has not been subjected to heat treatment is used. In order to guide fermentation, a low-acid starter culture is used which is obtained by allowing the milk to ferment after low-temperature pasteurization. All this favors the multiplication of the milk’s natural enzymes – those of the area of production and the breeds of cattle and the hay used.
The classic production process provides for differentiated harvesting of the milk, with the evening milking being skimmed. The milk is than poured into vats, usual made of copper, to which the starter culture is added in a ratio of 0.5/1 Kg per hectoliter. It is then heated to a temperature of 32/34°C when rennet obtained from the dried stomachs of colostrum deprived calves.
After around 20/25 minutes of coagulation the gelatinous mass is cut using an agitator known as a lira (after the musical instrument the lyre, beloved of Nero). The granules obtained have the dimensions of a grain of rice. The curd is then heated to a temperature of 44/46°C.
While the curd is agitated the scalding process continues away from the heat source, allowing the curd to harden and expel the whey. After around 20/30 minutes the Montasio is extracted using cloths. The cheeses are placed in the characteristic branding molds that impress the mark of origin, the date of production and the cheese house; they are then pressed to eliminate the whey and give the cheese its characteristic shape.
After around 24 hours, the cheese is immersed in brine (a saturated solution of salt and water) for a period of around 48 hours. After this phase, the cheese undergoes further dry salting and is then placed in the stores to age.
The wheels of Montasio cheese are identified through the mark of origin on the sides, the oblique repetition of the name “Montasio”. The cheese is also branded with a second mark of quality by the consortium board to identify a product aged for over 100 days that is free of any ripening defect.