The tiny, beautiful and unspoilt Bregaglia Valley, in the Graubünden canton, is run administratively by a single municipality, Bregaglia, with just over a thousand inhabitants divided between seven different localities. A traditional ricotta is made here, called Mascarplin in the upper Bregaglia Valley (known locally as Sopraporta), and Mascarpel in the lower valley (Sottoporta), though the product is the same. No one knows why this ricotta-type cheese has two slightly different names, though the similarity with the mascherpa ricotta produced in the nearby Valtellina is evident. The Italian valley is just a few kilometers south, running more or less parallel to the Bregaglia Valley, and the names mascherpa, mascarpa and mascarpin are used in Lombardy to indicate ricottas and similar cheeses, mostly made from cow’s milk whey mixed with a little goat’s milk.
Just like in the Valtellina, here Mascarplin is not the main product of local herders. Small-scale cheese producers make a number of different cheeses, not always traditional, and use the leftover whey to make Mascarplin. Only milk from goats pastured on fallow land or in Alpine meadows is used. The most common breeds are Camosciata delle Alpi, Grisons Striped, Grigia and Colomba, and for six to ten months every year they feed on meadow grasses and local hay.
The milk is heated to a high temperature, above 90°C (194°F) before the cheesemaker adds what is known as the maestra, the whey left over from the previous day. These days it is helped along by a little citric acid, though in the past the cheesemakers used to add dried and fermented fruit, berries or roots, stored and reused for months. The maestra triggers curdling, the thickening of the residual milk proteins. The curds are left to drain for around eight hours in small, perforated, cylindrical containers. The forms are then removed and drysalted before being left to dry for a day in a cool, protected place (sometimes outside). The small forms, around 8-10 centimeters tall and 10 centimeters in diameter, weigh between 250 and 500 grams each.
The Mascarplin should then be aged for at least two or three weeks, after which it reaches its full potential. Unfortunately the cheese is usually sold much earlier.
Mascarplin was once aged for even longer periods, but it tends to develop a flavor that is too strong for modern palates.
All summer, a young cheesemaker from the valley, Minh Brunner, works in the stone buildings that house a production facility and a shop. He produces formaggelle, French-style goat's cheeses, Mascarplin and other interesting cheeses. Everything is sold directly to tourists from the dairy or distributed to restaurants and shops in the valley.
The Presidium aims to promote the hard work of local producers and preserve an ancient tradition at risk of disappearing.
Bregaglia Valley, Graubünden canton
Presidium supported by:
Maloja - Località Cavloc
tel. +41 793295166
During the summer, Mascarplin from the Alpe Cavloc goat consortium made by Minh Bunner can be bought directly from the dairy.
The consortium brings together the following farmers: Lucrezia and Duri Bischoff from Casaccia, Maria and Erwin Bühler from Soglio, Romana and Giampietro Gini from Soglio, Raffaella and Gian Radolf Giovanoli from Soglio, Ines Martinoli from Castasegna, Jolanda and Gianni Pedroni from Castasegna, Daniel and Aldo Petti from Vicosoprano, Daria and Elio Filisetti-Rezzoli from Stampa.
Vreni and Fluri Cadurisch
Maloja - Località Isola
tel. +41 818243484
Vreni and Fluri run their own mountain dairy and produce fresh Mascarplin.