Why the Bettelmatt might be the rarest cheese in Italy
The history of one of the most precious and traditional cheeses of Italy is full of charm and mystery, but also of strong territoriality and culture. Within the unique landscape of the Ossola mountains, thanks to the wide expanses and well sheltered from the wind, the history of the use of the alpine pastures dates back to before the year one thousand.
Tradition has it that the “Bettelmatt” was known as early as the thirteenth century, as a cheese of excellence used as a bargaining chip, for the payment of rent or taxes.
The name Bettelmatt seems to derive in fact from “batte” which means “collection” and “matt” which in German means grazing, thus making clear the purpose of this highly esteemed product: “collection for grazing”.
However, the fame of the Bettelmatt is given above all by how and from where this unique product is born.
With its rich flavor of alpine essences and nuances that are accentuated with maturing, Bettelmatt is a cheese that deviates from the classic tastes. The herb that, in addition to the mix of flowers gives the particular flavor is Muttolina. The Bettelmatt is produced exclusively in seven mountain pastures, all visited and connected by the tour called “Sulle Strade del Bettelmatt”, scattered between the Antigorio and Formazza valleys at a height of more than 1800 meters. The production takes place twice a day, during 7-8 weeks at high altitudes. The cheese wheels are then brought downstream on the backs of mules or in the last years even by helicopter.
Thanks to these unique and “extreme” techniques, Bettelemat is such a refined and protected cheese.
In 1998 the Bettelmatt brand was registered for the first time by a manufacturer who in 2001 sold the ownership and exploitation rights to the Mountain Community.
From the summer of 2003, to limit the widespread counterfeits, the producers decided to brand each wheel with the name Bettelmatt.
In 2017, 5,596 wheels were marked. Those are numbers that highlight even better how much the Bettelmatt is a niche product but decidedly sought after, given that in less than two months the cheese wheels are practically sold out.
The history of Bettelmatt goes beyond the product, born as a bargaining chip, today it is one of the symbols of a fascinating and suggestive place, the land of the Walser, a German race that has settled in these areas since the twelfth century. Their houses (still visible) are an example of spontaneous architecture perfectly inserted in the landscape where every place of the house was used for a function such as the rooms for processing milk.
The Bettelmatt is the best business card to discover this magical place, untouched by time. It is the symbol of hard work and long tradition. A hidden treasure worth trying in order to experience in one bite the history of such a unique land.
– Until next time, With love!