What Is Fontina Cheese?
A variety of cheese can be found in our local grocery stores, but one particular kind caught my eye because it is not usually sold here in our region- Fontina. What is fontina cheese? Why was I excited for this cheese you may ask?
Because it has a very wide range of usage, be it with dishes or dessert recipes. It is not always that I see this being sold so when I do, I can’t just walk by and not hoard.
What makes fontina cheese special?
- Fontina is a semi-soft Italian cow’s milk cheese that originated from Valle d’Aosta, Italy. It has been a constant table food as early as the 12th century.
- Authentic fontina cheese still comes from the Aosta Valley in Italy, so if you do prefer the original version then find the mark of the local sellers from that region. Mass produced fontina cheese can differ in richness, taste, and aroma because the original calls for high-quality cow’s milk and the natural process of aging cheese.
- This type of cheese has the rich taste of being both herby and fruity, and at the same time equally earthy and nutty. Its the perfect cheese candidate for cooking because of the wide range of flavor it adds.
- Fontina cheese is used for a variety of recipes such as those needed for pasta, pizzas, condiments to make sauces, sandwiches, soups, and frittatas. If a recipe calls for a different kind of cheese, chances are you can substitute that with fontina.
- It melts and fuses with the other ingredients finely which creates a soft and sticky form making it the perfect element to add both texture and taste to any dish. This is the main reason why fontina is always the winning candidate in making creamy soups.
- Desserts can also be made from something as flavorful as this cheese- treats such as beet cheese tart, croissant with apples and cheese, and of course cheese crepes. If you want to balance out the sweetness, add a dash of grated fontina cheese or a thin slice on top for that additional nutty and herby flavor.
- Because of the careful process of production, it can be consumed straight by using a knife to take a perfect slice. It is a constant crowd pleaser even as standalone snack, from the fridge and straight to the cheese board with a glass of wine.
- Fontina cheese may be semi-soft or semi-firm in texture, depending on the exact age of the cheese. Because of the savory and nutty taste, it is best paired with sweet dried fruits such as dates, raisins, cherries, fresh grapes and sometimes even chocolate.
- It has a high milk fat content that reaches up to 45 percent, which can be perfectly seen in the richness and creaminess it adds to the recipe, be sure to make your guests aware as they may be sensitive to their fat intake.
How to spot the perfect fontina:
As mentioned earlier, buying fontina cheese can be confusing as there are already a variety of manufacturers. Here are some tips if you want to make sure you are buying the original Aostan Fontina cheese, or just simply want to ensure a quality purchase:
Look for the natural rind color:
Since Aostan Fontina makes the cheese on a natural process, look for the color of rind that is usually orange, brown or tan. Take note that cheese that is produced from other countries will usually be covered with red wax rind signifying machine production;
Look for the stamp of Matterhorn: (the peak of mountains bordering the Aosta Valley)
This signifies that it was produced and approved by the consortium of that region and lives up to the original tradition of fontina cheese making;
This short video clip shows how fontina cheese is cured, stored, and hand processed by the people of the Aosta Valley. It also features the stamp you should look for in case you settle for the original cheese.
Look for an evenly textured cheese without signs of discoloration:
Water seepage may occur during transportation, so be mindful of the little details. Also, there really is no rule in preference if you prefer the younger the cheese or the older one. The younger cheese tends to have a lesser aroma more neutral flavor, while an older batch can be more pungent and savory in taste;
Here is a link to a Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese, sold per pound. Use this as reference to understand the natural rind color when buying.
Find the perfect substitute:
If you are unable to find the above features, settling for a different fontina cheese can also be an option. The main difference of this is that since it is not naturally processed, you are unsure whether the milk ingredient is of high-quality. If you are not planning on serving the cheese as a standalone snack or part of a cheese plate, but only as an ingredient to a specific dish for cooking, then any kind of fontina cheese can do the trick.
Adding cheese to our viand and desserts have been a practice in our home because doing so perfectly balances the flavors we look for. It is not overpowering, just enough to create a certain character to any dish. I believe the kind of cheese that is put in a recipe greatly affects the texture, flavor, and taste. These are only a few of the reasons why I was hyped up about finding fontina in our local store.
Lastly, we all know that cheese makes everything better - so don’t be afraid to experiment and let your loved ones taste test with you if you are unsure of your creation. Find the perfect fontina cheese, set up a party, and have a good time.