Produced in the lowland dairies surrounding the town of Bra, in Northern Italy, Bra Duro is made with milk sourced from the local breed of Razza Piedmontese cow. The word "duro" means rough, or rugged in Italian, and refers to the rustic appearance of the rind.
According to AOC (name protected) rules, milk for production must be drawn from two milkings on the same day and can occasionally include the addition of either goat's or sheep's milk.
For cheesemaking, milk is coagulated with the addition of liquid calf rennet at a temperature of 80.6°-89.6°F. Although a small number of cheeses are produced from raw milk, the majority are pasteurized. For pasteurized cheeses, a commercial starter, usually made with a mix of thermophilic and mesophilic lactic bacteria, is used, although generally each producer uses a slightly different starter to characterize their production.
The curd is cut twice in a circular movement that ultimately produces granules about the size of rice grains. After draining, curds are put in molds and pressed for at least five or six hours before being dry-salted (salt applied to the rind) for three days per side.
There are several variations of Bra that have been developed over the years: Bra Tenero (a soft, young version), Bra Stravecchio (super-aged), and Bra Ciucco (rubbed in wine).
Bra Duro Vecchio is aged for about six months, which produces a firm cheese with mellow, toasty aromas and a hard, golden-brown colored rind. The texture is dense and compact with occasional small "eyes," or holes, and is straw-colored.
Flavors are mild and lactic with notes of fruit and hazelnuts, and a pleasantly long, grassy finish.
Bra Duro pairs best with one of the region's wines such as Gamay, Barbera, and Nebbiolo.