What Is Asiago Cheese?

Explains where and how asiago cheese is produced and the uses associated with it. Also includes information on its nutritional benefits.

Asiago, pronounced ah-SYAH-goh, cheese is a nutty flavored cheese that hails from Europe. It is named for a region in Italy where it was first produced. This region is known as the Asiago High Plateau, which lies within the Italian Alps. As far back as the year 1000 AD, Asiago cheese was produced by farmers in this region for use locally. Now, it is manufactured commercially in northeast Italy, specifically in the provinces of Vincenza e Trento, Padua, and in Treviso.

Asiago cheese is produced in two forms as follows: fresh Asiago, also known as Pressato, and mature Asiago, which is called Asiago d´Allevo. Fresh Asiago has an off-white color and is milder in flavor than Asiago d´Allevo. Asiago d´Allevo also has a more yellowish color and is somewhat grainy in texture.

To make fresh Asiago cheese only whole milk is used. The milk is then aged for approximately 40 days. Meanwhile, to produce Asiago d´Allevo cheese, partially skimmed, not whole, milk is used and the cheese is aged for a much longer period of time - anywhere from three months to up to a year depending on the flavor and texture desired. Asiago d´Allevo cheese also contains small to medium holes throughout its body. Its texture also varies from semi-firm to firm depending on how long it is aged.

Both types of Asiago cheese are known as "mountain cheeses" because of their similarity to the Swiss Emmental and the French Comte cheeses. This nickname arises from the fact that all of these cheeses are produced from cows that graze on lush, mountain pastures. As a result, the cows produce thick and rich milk that serves as the backbone for making these full-flavored cheeses. Asiago cheese also holds certification by a cheese consortium, which ensures that the cheese is produced under certain guidelines in order for it to meet high quality standards.

You can purchase Asiago cheese in most larger supermarket chains and in some ethnic or specialty cheese stores. Asiago cheese is packaged in small, round wheels with a protective and glossy outer rind covering it. When purchasing fresh Asiago or Asiago d´Allevo cheese, look for a label that indicates where the cheese was produced. Currently, there are many producers and curing houses that specialize in making Asiago cheese. Because of this, the Consortium of Asiago cheese was founded in 1979 and now represents over ninety Asiago cheese manufacturers.

Using Asiago cheese as part of your daily diet is a healthy and nutritious thing to do. According to recent studies, Asiago cheese is low in fat and rich in protein, with approximately 305 grams of protein per one kilo of cheese. Asiago cheese also provides a good source of vitamins and minerals, with one cube, or approximately 28 grams of Asiago cheese containing 110 calories. Additionally, fresh Asiago cheese features live enzymes. Asiago cheese provides an abundance of positive dietary elements and, as such, should be considered when selecting cheeses as an addition to, or substitute for, other food sources.

Regardless of whether you purchase fresh Asiago or Asiago d´Allevo, its uses in cooking are varied. Fresh Asiago is popular as a table cheese and is good when enjoyed with crackers, fruits, and red wine. In this case, cut chunks of fresh Asiago into bite-size servings and place on an attractive platter or dish to serve to guests. Along with a nut-like flavor, fresh Asiago has a taste that is semi-sweet. Because of this, it is also good when used in a sandwich, either served with luncheon meats, such as salami, or inserted singly in slices between bread.

Asiago d´Allevo cheese is harder in consistency than fresh Asiago and is most commonly used as a grating cheese to serve over pastas, salads, soups, appetizers, and gravies. It has a sharp flavor that resembles Parmesan and Cheddar cheese combined and, because of this, is also popularly used as an ingredient in omelets and sauces. The longer Asiago d´Allevo has aged, the firmer its texture, and stronger its flavor, becomes. Age is often measured by the cheese's flavor, which is reflected as one of the following variety types: mezzano, vecchio, and stravecchio. If you are not sure about the sharpness of the Asiago cheese that you are purchasing and one of the above variety types is listed on the label, ask your store for their definition of the term. This way, you will be sure to purchase the exact flavor of Asiago cheese that you desire.

Once you have purchased your Asiago cheese, make sure that you store it properly in your home. Cheese wrapped in its original packaging can be repacked back into this binding or, you can use cellophane/plastic wrap to repackage the Asiago cheese. You can also place the cheese in a container specifically designed to hold vegetables or cheeses. Make sure, however, that once you have brought home Asiago cheese it remains stored in your refrigerator.

Asiago cheese is a delicious alternative to more common and well-known cheeses such as Cheddar or American. It is also highly nutritious and, as such, should be considered for purchase when you next want to add some flavor and a healthier aspect to your meals.

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