Agrì di Valtorta is a soft, fatty, fresh whole raw curd cow’s cheese made by acid presamic coagulation, inoculated with soured whey and liquid calf’s rennet.
Small cylindrical fresh whole raw curd cheese with a diameter of about 3 cm, a flat top and bottom and a straight side of 5-6 cm, weighing 50 g. The fresh cheese is rindless, but a rind develops with maturing, taking on a straw-yellow colour, sometimes with a slight grey-white bloom. It is moist, soft and slightly wrinkly. The body is white and eyeless with a soft, moist, smooth, slightly greasy, supple texture, which becomes firmer in maturer cheeses. Initial sweetness on the palate is followed up by acidity and tanginess. On the nose, the fresh cheese is redolent of sour milk, acid rennet, yogurt, fresh milk, melted butter, grass, herbs and hay. Matured, it offers notes of mushrooms, toast, dried fruit and hazelnuts. The structure is relatively non-sticky, melt-in-the mouth and moist. The flavour is medium-long on the nose and palate.
Agrì is made with whole fresh-drawn milk from one milking. It takes three days to produce and the process requires great manual dexterity on the part of cheesemaker. Following acid coagulation by inoculation with soured whey from previous cheesemaking and a little liquid calf’s rennet, the curd is left in a basin covered with a cloth. After 24 hours, it is wrapped in linen cloths, which are suspended to let it drain. On the third day the firm curd is put in ricotta moulds and left to stand for another 24 hours. Now very acid indeed, the curd is salted by hand and shaped into small cylinders, which have a diameter of three centimeters and weigh about 50 grams. They are left to dry for a few days. Agrì is ready to eat after another eight-15 day, and produced all year round.
At one time, when connections with the bottom of the valley were anything but easy, the women of Valtorta, a small village in the Val Brembana, used to make what they called pasta di agro, or sour curd, which they carried over the mountain paths in baskets and faggots via Ceresola and Piani di Bobbio to Barzio in the nearby Valsassina. There cheese merchants used it to make small cheeses very much like the ones we know today.
Until the postwar years there were about 40 local cattle breeders who used to produce their own small Agrì at home. With the industrialization of the areas round Bergamo, everything changed. Today in the valley of Valtorta there are still 12 small breeders, each with 10-12 Bruno Alpina cattle, (apart from Silvano Busi who keeps the Pezzata Rossa breed) who supply raw milk to the village’s small cooperative dairy. Abramo Milesi, the cooperative’s dairyman for more than 40 years, has handed down the art of making Agrì, Traditional Stracchino all’antica and Formai de Mut to young producers. The Valtorta cooperative on the village piazza is the Slow Food Agrì di Valtorta Presidium’s only production workshop. It collects milk from the communes of Valtorta and Ornica in the Valle Stabina, part of the Alta Valle Brembana.
Agrì di Valtorta produced in the Alta Valle Brembana is included on the Lombardy Regional Authority’s list of Traditional Agrifood Products.