Produced from raw, skimmed cow's milk, Asiago is named for the Asiago plateau in the mountains of Veneto in northern Italy.
According to its DOP (name protected) designation, production of Asiago can only take place within the officially recognized areas near the town of Asiago in the Provinces of Vicenza and Trento.
Asiago is available in two types: Asiago Pressato and Asiago d'Allevo. The Pressato version is made with milk sourced from the low lying areas. It is a semisoft cheese with fairly large, irregular shaped holes.
Asiago d'Allevo is produced from raw milk from the Pezzata Nera and Bruno Alpina cows that graze in the higher mountain pastures. Cheeses are either made in the small mountain dairies or in the larger facilities where the cheeses are collectively matured. In either case, the cooperative dairies ensure the quality of milk that goes into cheese production. It is generally acknowledged that the best milk for cheesemaking comes from the higher Alpine pastures during the summer months, when the cows are grazing on a large variety of grasses, herbs and flowers.
The raw milk is allowed to rest for 6-12 hours, and the cream that rises to the top is skimmed off. The milk is heated, rennet added, and coagulation takes place at 95°F, lasting between 25-30 minutes. The curd is cut and then reheated twice, first to a temperature of 104°F and then 116°F in order to expel more whey.
The curds are then scooped into the molds for pressing, during which time they receive their DOP stamp on the rind. After unmolding, wheels are either brined or dry salted before being moved to the maturing rooms for aging.
Asiago d'Allevo is produced in large, flat wheels weighing approximately 15 lbs. and is sold at varying ages.
The age of the cheese denotes its flavor profile. In younger "Mezzano"cheeses, aged for a minimum of three months, flavors are fresh, mild, and lactic. The texture is supple, semisoft, and even throughout, with a pale straw-colored interior dotted with occasional small holes.
Cheeses matured for at least nine months are known as "Vecchio" or "Stravecchio" and have a much firmer, drier texture that can be used for grating. With age, flavors become more intense, spicy, and piquant.