While still loving the ‘old’ way of travelling, I decided to embark on a journey of discovery of the Provolone Valpadana PDO through the project “Choose your taste, sweet or spicy, only from Europe”in collaboration with the European Commission and theItalian Food Bloggers Association. The project aims to improve the manner in which European quality labelled products are recognised and promote their consumption, and I did it with my Savoury muffins with Provolone Valpadana PDO.
My encounter with this product dates back to my childhood when I accompanied my father to the International Dairy Cattle Fair in Cremona , where the food stands present at the social event for breeders from Northern Italy displayed huge cheese wheels, shiny, sometimes round and sometimes cylindrical. Their size fascinated and, at the same time, frightened me.
After so many years, discovering how this cheese is made fills my heart with joy.
The sweet and spicy Provolone Valpadana PDO
Where does the name of this cheese come from? From the Italian word prova “try” (because in the past, when there were no technological means to verify that the curd was fermented to the right point to be spun, pieces of it were taken and spinning tests were made repeatedly (hence the name Provola and its augmentative Provolone) until the results were perfect to proceed.
The production area of Provolone Valpadana PDO includes part of Lombardy, part of Veneto, the province of Piacenza and part of the province of Trento, an area characterised by the presence of the Po Valley.
The production process in brief
- Milk preparation in the boiler within 60 hours after milking.
- Addition of fermented whey from the end of the previous day’s processing and, if necessary, of additional lactic acid bacteria always obtained from the whey of Provolone Valpadana PDO.
- Rennet and curdling, the stage from which the differentiation between mild and piquant Provolone starts, thanks to the addition of calf rennet in the former and kid rennet in the latter, which cause the milk to curdle at a temperature of between 36 and 39°C.
- Fermentation and cutting of the curd, when the curd is allowed to rest by fermenting on suitable surfaces and, once ready, cut and then stretched.
- Stretching, a process that takes place in water at 85-95°C, consists of melting the curd by pulling it to form long threads.
- Moulding, cooling and firming, when the curd is moulded either by hand or in special moulds and placed in ice-cold water to promote rapid cooling and subsequent firming.
- Salting, which consists of immersing the cheeses in brine for a period of time depending on their size.
- Tying, possibly smoking and maturing are the final stages of production since once the cheeses are tied, they can be smoked and matured or stored for a short time in the case of sweet Provolone Valpadana PDO.
Many shapes for many flavours
As a great cheese enthusiast, I find the variety of shapes in which Provolone Valpadana PDO can be presented really unusual, because each size will have its own uniqueness in terms of flavour. So not only is there a difference between sweet and piquant, but within those, ranging from small 6kg wheels to huge 100kg cheeses, the sensory profile develops in a multiplicity of nuances.
For this reason, maturation periods can vary from a minimum of 10 days to over 240 days!
How to use Provolone Valpadana PDO
Given the variety of flavours, textures and maturations, Provolone Valpadana PDO can be used in an infinite number of recipes, which will then be characterised by our choices: a delicate version with a milky scent or a strong touch of flavour and spiciness, as if we had added a pinch of chilli pepper.
Provolone can be used directly raw or in preparations that are to be cooked in a pan or in the oven. Here is the recipe I have prepared to share with you and which I cooked using mild Provolone Valpadana PDO, but which you can easily modify using the piquant version of the same cheese to obtain a completely different result: have fun experimenting!
Savoury muffins with Provolone Valpadana PDO
33.43g carbohydrates per 100 g
Ingredients for 4 large muffins
- 90g wholemeal rice flour*
- 75g Provolone Valpadana PDO sweet or spicy (sweet in the photo)
- 2 eggs
- 35g tapioca starch*
- 30g milk
- 25 g extra virgin olive oil
- 20g dried tomatoes
- 5g baking powder for savoury pies*
- salt and pepper
*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on Prontuario AIC)
- Coarsely chop the Provolone cheese and dried cherry tomatoes and set them aside.
- Place the rice flour and tapioca starch in a planetary mixer or bowl, then mix with eggs, milk and oil until smooth and creamy; finally add the yeast, Provolone cheese and cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the mixture into 4 rather large muffin tins, filling them 3/4 full.
- Bake the muffins in a static oven preheated to 180°C for 10-20 minutes.
- Take the muffins out of the oven and eat them warm – they are mouth-watering!
Version with gluten of Savoury muffins with Provolone Valpadana DOP
The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.