This time Stefano Tesi takes the stand:
More than the history of a cheese, this should perhaps be the history of a person. However, since garantito IGP is dedicated to food and wine, we’ll talk about the former, which in any case bears the name of and owes its origins to the latter: Gioda.
Gioda is a cheese. An excellent cheese, I might add. I had heard of it, but hadn’t had occasion to taste it until a couple of months ago, when the Pellegrinaggio Artusiano broght me to Mondovì, in the rural heart of Piemonte, and the town that – not by chance – boasts the last of the Comizi Agrari d’Italia.
An institution closely tied to our cheese.
A cheese that, to begin, lacks the “ancient roots and traditions,” and the “customs lost in the mists of time” that one often hears of, and are so prevalent in marketing. For a simple reason: Gioda is a cheese that was “invented” in the early part of the past century, 1928 to be precise, the the Paduan professor Alessandro Gioda (1878-1948), who first had a professorship and then directed the Comizio. A charismatic personality, considered an inspiration by the farmers of the time, who profited from his ideas.
And it was his desire to help solve the material problems faced by the rural populations that led him to study cheesemaking with the goal of developing a way of putting the scanty winter milkings to good use, transforming them into a cheese that could be sold easily or consumed directly: Thus was born Gioda; the Professor’s intuition was to partially cook the forms, leading them to resemble Fontina.
Whether the intuition was entirely his, or he had help or consolidated local practices already in use makes little difference. What’s important is that the formula for making Gioda was widely adopted and its popularity continued until changing socio-economic conditions made it less profitable, and its production was almost completely abandoned.
Fortunately, the meticulous professor had left detalied instructions for producing the cheese that bore his name, and it is thanks to them that after his death people were able to track down the last remaining producers and pass on their art. An art now practiced by the Cooperativa Valle Josina di Peveragno (CN), which still follows the steps laid out by the cheese’s inventor.
Gioda, as one might guess, is made from raw cow’s milk obtained in the territory of the Comizio Agrario di Mondovì: from Alto, in the Alta Val Tanaro, to the border with Liguria, to Beinette, Fossano and Monchiero.
The cheeses, which have the name “Gioda” impressed upon them, weigh about 2 kilos (4.5 pounds) and are about 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter and 7 cm (3 inches) high; they are aged from 20 days to 2 months. The rind, which is soft, thin, and fairly rough, varies, depending upon the season and the molds, from pale yellow to a grainy gray. The body is instead elastic, very pale yellow to milky white, and with minute, irregularly distributed eyeholes.
The cheese’s aroma is moderately intense, quite pleasant and not pungent, and brings milk to mind, a sensation present also on the plate, which is pleasantly firm, with milky flavors and others that confer unexpected complexity, including a delicate bitter vein and considerable persistence. Experts say the cheese also has hazelnut accents that I did not find.
Gioda is quite versatile, and a nice antipasto; it is sold locally, and in the points of sale of the cooperative that produces it.
Caseificio Cooperativo della Valle Josina
Via Beinette 1, Peveragno (CN)
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.