Let’s Talk Pecorino!
As one of Italy’s biggest exports, Pecorino comes in all shapes and varieties. Here we explore some of our favourites…
Like many of our Italian imports, Pecorino is made in a traditional way and has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
Out of all the Pecorinos, Pecorino Romano is probably the most well known. It is typically matured for at least five months and the recipe has been documented by Latin authors such as Varro and Pliny the Elder as far back as 2,000 years ago. It’s a phenomenally hard crumbly ewe’s milk cheese that is powerful, nutty and intense – perfect for a traditional pasta carbonara!
On our Deli Counter, we also have seasonal Pecorinos from one of Italy’s most prestigious cheese producers: Luigi Guffanti. These guys have taken cheese making to the heart and produce some of the most exquisite cheeses adhering to traditional recipes. We decided to try some new ones over the festive season and were very impressed…
As a rule, most of Italy’s famous Pecorinos come from the milk of Sardinian bred sheep. Being in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, it is an ideal environment to breed these sheep and makes such a unique cheese.
One of the biggest exports from the island is the Pecorino Sardo. This cheese (also known as Fiore Sardo) is an uncooked hard cheese made from fresh whole sheep’s milk curdled using lamb or kid rennet. The mixture is poured into moulds that will give the cheese its characteristic shape. After a brief period in brine, the moulds are lightly smoked and left to ripen in cool cellars in central Sardinia. The cheese can vary in colour depending on how long it’s left to mature, typically either an off white or straw yellow.
In searching for the perfect Pecorino, we discovered an absolute diamond. We can’t really say that it puts the other Pecorinos to shame, but it certainly is a cut above the rest!
We introduced Pecorino Dei Templari to our counter and the results were astonishing. This cheese is an extremely hard, crystalline cheese that’s almost blushing rose pink on the inside, with an unrelenting black as night rind. The story goes that “back in the day” when the Christmas or Easter holidays were approaching, housewives used to “liberate” Pecorino from the local cheese maker and work it in secret – attempting to change the flavour before selling it back to a market.
Traditionally, the milk to produce this cheese came from ewes that were farmed in the Apennine Mountains in North East Italy. To give this cheese it’s absolutely show stopping taste, it is washed with whey every five days, then left to soak it up in ventilation caves for 30 days. Once this has passed, it is rubbed with seabed oil & balsamic vinegar, before being tucked away in racks to sleep, interspersed with fragrant layers of juniper.
Each week the Pecorino is removed from the rack, cleaned & washed again, and then covered with balsamic and juniper. This is repeated for up to 80 days of maturing!
In the end, it comes out as a striking, powerfully intense & spicy cheese… best enjoyed with a crusty loaf of bread, a raw carpaccio of vegetables or beef, or simply with a glass of red wine. We recommend either a deep and full bodied Sangiovese or a crisp and fruity Barbera.
Remember that there are so many of these stunning Italian sheep cheeses, which we rotate through our counter, so get them whilst they’re here.
Pecorino in particular is so versatile and can easily be enjoyed on any cheese board. We have something for everyone… and more often than not, a fruit or wine combination to go with it! It’s enjoyed by kids and adults alike, and although society is more accepting of cheese made with sheeps’ milk now, it’s important that we still “blow their trumpets” every now and then, as we believe that they are absolute royalty on our counter!