Pecorino Sardo has unique and special features, which allow it to gain the Protected Designation of Origin, the most important European recognition for foods. It is a very ancient cheese, made from sheep’s milk, absolutely from Sardinia.
History and curiosities
Pecorino Sardo is a cheese made since antiquity in the wonderful lands of Sardinia. Its inimitable taste and its lovely texture are due to the same old methods, handed down from one generation to another.
The roots of this special cheese date back to ancient people of Sardinia, dedicated especially to sheep breeding.
The first effective evidences date back to 1700s. Particularly, cheeses Rosso Fino and Affumicato may be the ancestors of Pecorino Sardo. In this period the production of cheese occurred making boil raw milk with some hot stones inside.
The more similar method to the one used today does not appear before the end of 1800s, with the invention of thermometers, machines and innovative methods, aim to guarantee a greater hygienic safety.
Production and Regulation
The production of Pecorino Sardo DOP follows the rules imposed by its Regulation.
The first, important aspect is the kind of milk, which must be cow’s, from animal farms into the entire region.
Raw milk can pass some processes to gain a greater hygienic safety, as pasteurization. Milk is added with starter bacteria and calf’s rennet, leaving it coagulating for 35-40 minutes. Later, curd is broke until we obtain variable clots depending on the kind of cheese that we desire. In particular, for sweet Pecorino Sardo they must have the dimensions of a hazelnut, while for mature cheese they must be smaller, for example like a grain of corn.
Curd is then cooked at low temperature, which must not pass 43° C, and it is put in the specific molds. After this step, there is stewing, with or without pressing to allow exiting of whey. Finally wheels are salted dry or in brine, so that 100 grams of Pecorino could contain at least 2 grams of salt.
The final step is seasoning, which can vary from 20 days to 2 months, depending on the cheese that we want to obtain.
Pecorino Sardo gained the Protected Designation of Origin in 1996, by European Community and it subscribed the Regulation of European Union in 2011 and 2014.
To recognize the real Pecorino Sardo DOP from imitations, we should pay attention to some elements provided by Regulation. First, rind should have an edible stamp, on which there is an alphanumeric code linked to the factory, and the lettering “PS DOP”.
Moreover, it is important to verify the presence of the original label, released by Consortium, and even the symbol of Protected Designation of Origin. On the label we can read name and original symbol of Pecorino Sardo, with the PDO mark and an indication of Regulation. Each wheel has a specific number, pressed on the original label.
We should pay attention also to the PDO mark’s color. In fact, a green stamp stands for the younger or sweeter Pecorino Sardo, while a blue stamp shows the mature cheese.
Eventual alternative names, as Formaggio Sardo or Pecorino from Sardegna, are not used absolutely to indicate the original Pecorino Sardo.
Taste and characteristics
The inimitable taste of Pecorino Sardo DOP is due to many aspects, which are linked each other to realize a cheese with a unique and special taste. Each step, from the research of raw materials to their elaboration, give something more to the finished product.
Its features vary depending on the seasoning time. In fact, we can choose between a younger Pecorino Sardo, sweeter, semi-hard and white, and a mature or seasoned kind, hard, straw-yellow and with an intense taste. In both cheeses, rind is thin but compact, more yellow in the sweeter Pecorino Sardo and darker in the mature one. Another important difference concerns cheese’s sides, called “scalzo”, a little bit convex in the younger Pecorino and vertical in the mature cheese.
For what concerns seasoning period, the sweeter Pecorino can be sold after 20-60 days, while mature Pecorino cannot be considered ready before 2 months of stand, but it can be put on the market also after 4 months.
Pecorino Sardo DOP is a very versatile cheese, thanks especially to the presence of two varieties. In this way we can distinguish a sweeter Pecorino, perfect to be consumed fresh or as an ingredient, and the mature Pecorino, ideal as grated cheese.
Pecorino Sardo is a great cheese for table, but it can be also used as an ingredient to accompany many pleasant recipes. For example, it is particularly suitable to realize the typical “pasta al forno” or “lasagna”, in both the versions.
To remain in the culinary area of interest of Sardinia, we can accompany Pecorino Sardo with “malloreddus”, a kind of pasta typical of local cuisine, similar to Apulian “cavatelli”, but narrower and more elongated. Grate the sweeter Pecorino Sardo and let it melt with a spoonful of hot water in a double saucepan. Meanwhile, boil “malloreddus” in salted water and when they are ready, add them to fused Pecorino, finishing with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and black pepper.
Pecorino can be also used with other sweet or salty foods. For example, we can obtain a taste explosion accompanying it with some cold cuts, as smoked bacon, Salsiccia di Calabria DOP or Speck Alto Adige DOP.
At the same time, Pecorino is great to realize perfect contrasts with sweeter foods, as squash or “polenta”, in the young or mature type.
Sweeter Pecorino requires a delicate and a little bit fruity white wine, as Vermentino di Sardegna DOC, while the mature cheese can be accompanied with a more intense wine, as Brunello di Montalcino DOCG or Barolo DOCG.