Macagn’ is a full-fat cow’s milk cheese made by curdling unpasteurized freshly drawn milk. The curd is heated to over 40° C, being broken up at the same time, extracted and then worked by hand. The cheeses are then given a short or moderate ageing (minimum 20 days, maximum 2 months). Macagn’ is compact and between white and straw yellow in color. It has a delicate flavor with an aroma of alpine grasses and herbs. It’s named after a grazing ground in Valsesia, at 2,200 meters above sea level, traditionally used by Biella dairy farmers.
Maccagno differs from macagn’ in that it’s made with both pasteurized and unpasteurized full-fat cow’s milk. It’s a semi-cooked cheese made all over the Biella area in much the same way as macagn’ in terms of the heating, breaking up and pressing of the curd. Cylindrical forms are ripened in cool and damp conditions for periods varying from 20 days to 3 months, during which they take on increasingly intense and distinctive consistency and flavor.
Mascherpa is made by taking whey left over from the making of toma or macagn’ and putting it in a vat where it is brought to the boil and a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar is added to help coagulate the casein. Tiny flakes come to the surface and are skimmed off and left to drain for a couple of days in loose-woven cloth. The result is then worked together with aromatic herbs and crushed juniper berries. The forms – cylindrical sticks or truncated cones – are left to age by a hearth for periods ranging from one week to three months, during which they gradually grow firmer and stronger tasting.
Toma biellese is made with milk drawn in two successive milkings from cows of the “pezzata rossa di Oropa” breed. It is then partially skimmed, heated to 38° C and coagulated by adding rennet. The curd is broken up into “rice grains”, extracted and pressed manually, often mechanically too. The cheese is usually salted by immersion, followed by drying and wiping (with a cloth soaked in brine) for at least a week, after which it is ripened, even for months. This cheese is straw colored and compact and grows stronger in taste with ageing.
Toma brusca has a rather special consistency due to the acidity of the milk used. Traditionally, it was made by mixing milk drawn in the evening (and kept in a warm place so it started to ferment under the action of bacteria during the night) with milk drawn the morning after. Nowadays it’s made with full-fat cow’s milk, rennet and bacterial culture, and comes in cylindrical forms weighing around three kilos. This white, semi-hard cheese is compact and slightly granular and is aged for 30 to 90 days, becoming more compact, smoother and tastier.
Tomino di Sordevolo is a fresh cheese with a gelatinous consistency. Made with full-fat milk, it comes in forms weighing around 400 grams. As soon as the milk is drawn, rennet is added and the whole is rested for around an hour, after which the curd is broken into large lumps. The curd is then extracted, put in molds to drain and immediately sent to market. It’s eaten on its own, with a pinch of salt, or mixed with oil, vinegar, salt and spices (sancarlìn and frachèt) or flavored with some traditional apple mostarda.