The semantic origin of the name Salva Cremasco is linked to the purpose of the cheese, i.e. the need to “save” the surplus spring milk. These skills have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries and are still preserved today by the cheesemakers.
There are numerous historical remnants dating to the tenth century AD that indicate an intense dairy activity. Salva Cremasco cheeses even appear in some 17th and 18th-century frescos. A recent study shows images in which pieces of cheese are clearly portrayed. In the Supper of St. Gregory the Great, inspired by the golden legend, a small form of salva can be seen on the table and is about to be eaten by the illustrious pontiff.
In more recent times, when the famous warlord Bartolomeo Colleoni, captain general of the Venetian Republic, was sent to inspect the fortifications of Crema in 1466, he apparently received two Salva Cremasco cheeses in homage, together with other gifts. The production of Salva Cremasco continued over the years, preserving the same production methods, and provided a significant improvement in the economic conditions of the local inhabitants.
The Salva Cremasco production area includes the entire provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi and Milan.
The cheese comes in a rectangular cuboid form with flat sides and weighs between 3 and 5 kg per cheese (the smaller forms weigh between 1.3 and 1.9 kg), the rind is smooth, with a medium texture and characteristic microflora; the paste is firm, crumbly, softer below the surface and has occasional irregular holes.
Today, as in former times, the Salva Cremasco rind is still only given the ancient salt and water treatment or is sponged down with olive oil, wine, pomace or herbs in accordance with the traditional aging methods.
These treatment processes during aging give the product a long storage life and particular organoleptic characteristics.
As stated in the Salva Cremasco production rules, “raw whole cow’s milk” must be used, obtained from the cattle breeds used in the local area: Italian Friesian and Alpine Brown.
The milk is allowed to be pasteurised, which should be carried out at 71.7°C for 15 seconds, or given an equivalent treatment. The milk can be heated by wood fire, gas fire or steam. Only liquid bovine rennet from native stock raised in the area of origin can be used.
Curdling is carried out at between 32°C and 40°C, and lasts from 10 to 20 minutes. The curds are broken up in two stages, without being heated. The curd mixture is then placed in the moulds. Drying comes next, lasting from 8 to 16 hours, at a temperature between 21°C and 29°C at a humidity of 80-90%.
The product is marked on one of the occasions on which it is turned, with a stamp containing the identification number of the dairy applied to one of the flat sides. This is followed by salting, either with dry salt or in brine.
The form is then left to age on wooden boards for a minimum of 75 days, in an environment with a natural humidity of 80-90%. During this stage it is turned over several times, treated with a cloth soaked in a saline solution and dry brushed.
Curator — Consorzio Tutela Salva Cremasco