A Taste of the Alps of Italy
Seirass del Fen, Cheese of Val Pellice

Seirass del Fen - typical product of Val Pellice, Alps of Piedmont

The delicious cheese that ages in Alpine herbs

Article by : Verticalife
Pics by: Verticalife
Published: Monday, 19 March 2018
If you happen to be in Val Pellice (Alps of Piedmont), either for a nice trekking day or to relax on the verdant grass by the rivers, you simply have to taste one of the typical products of these mountains: Sairass del Fen.

The name:
"Seirass" (or Saras) means ricotta cheese in the local language, and comes from the latin seracium, that means whey.
"Fen" stands for hay: this traditional cheese was wrapped in hay during the transport from the alpine pastures to the village. Hence Seirass del Fen is a type of ricotta cheese aged in hay threads on the outside.

The seirass:
Seirass, like every ricotta cheese, is made processing the whey, which is the residual of the process of making cheese from milk. It can be found both fresh and aged: the fresh version is simply called Seirass, and it’s a must-taste too!
Each maker uses his/her own method: some add milk, some prefer to squash, others add salt during processing and some other once the making is complete (the best choice, in our opinion).
Sairass is also produced during the winter months, resulting in a slightly different cheese (but still really nice!). Last but not least, Sairass del Fen is a slow food product.

The hay wrapping:
The Fen (hay) comes from the festuca alpina, a type of grass that grows in the alpine pastures. The hay of the Seirass del Fen wrapping is aged for one year before use. During the past cheese makers coulnd’t go to the village before the end of the season, so the cheese was aged in hay: used originally as a kind of envelope, cheese makers soon found out that it gave the cheese a different, particular taste.
Now this tradition is maintained for aromatic and packaging reasons only, as travelling from the pastures to the villages of Val Pellice is much easier than it used to be.

Pellice Valley, Alps of Italy: typical Products

Aged or fresh?
Seirass del Fen is aged in cellars or grottos, for no less than 21 days, wrapped in hay. Then, it can be tasted right after this period of maturation or aged for 4 months or more, giving it a stronger taste. If you are in a pasture and love aged and (deliciously) smelly cheese, ask to the sheperd for a more aged one!

Where to buy:
Sairass can be easily found in the local shops of Val Pellice, but is better to buy it directly from the producers. In the Pellice Valley there are around 15 mountain pastures that produce seirass and other delicious Alpine cheeses. Some can be reached by car, others are accessible only by a couple hours of walk, in a wonderful environment.

Explore this hidden gem of the Alps of Italy with our hiking tours Val Pellice

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