The Clever Root

Spring 2018

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3 2 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t Halfway between a yodel and a yelp, the sound Jerome Pfister makes to call his herd of goats is one he'll happily demonstrate for visitors. These Camosciata Alpine goats are one of only two breeds whose milk is permitted for use in the Robiola di Roccaverano D.O.P., a strictly-regulated cheese with a tradition dating back to the 10th century. South of the Alps sits Piedmont, fittingly translating to "at the foot of the mountains." The region is famous for Barolo and white truffles, but the Mombaldone municipality in the province of Asti has yet another claim to fame: Azienda Agricola* Stutz & Pfister, which is one of about 20 com- munes throughout the eastern part of the Langhe where Robiola di Roccaverano D.O.P. can be produced, matured, and aged. Pfister walks his herd for two hours daily so they can graze on hay and alfalfa in nearby meadows and pastures. "You have to become their mother," he says, explaining how early weaning is crucial to raising an animal loyal to the herder (the goats' diets also include cereal grains like oats, wheat, orzo, and soy during the milking process). His family purchased Poggi farm in Mombaldone after relocating from Zürich, Switzerland, 30 years ago; with help from his father Andrea, mother Simone Stutz-Pfister, and brother Ramon, Pfis- ter oversaw a herd of 150 goats at first. They now share the production of cheese from 350 adult goats and 50 kids, spread across two properties in Mombaldone and Roccaverano—one property is certified organic, while the other is currently undergoing the two-year certification process. A product of the Slow Food Presidia project, Stutz & Pfister cheeses have been recognized by the international nonprofit for remaining true to the tradition of cheese production. The brand uses 100 percent raw goat's milk, and while D.O.P. rules introduced in 1979 allow farmers to use up to 50 percent cow or sheep's milk, Slow Food contends that the practice dilutes the cheese's flavor. A soft cheese similar to French chevre in color and texture but with less barn-animal flavor, Robi- ola di Roccaverano D.O.P. is particularly popular in the areas surrounding its production region, but can also be foundthroughout Italy, with 10 percent or less exported to France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Part of the D.O.P. regulations include handling the milk at consistently-low tempera- tures of about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which helps maintain the delicate flavor notes. *Azienda Agricola means "Agricultural Company" Once the cheeses begin to hold their form, they are transferred to racks to mature. Ramon Pfister cradles a newborn goat.

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