Pecorino Sardo

pecorino and honey

Pecorino Sardo is one of the oldest cheeses of Sardinia. Its origins date back to the 1700.  Cheese products were then referred to as the Whites, the Reds Fini, the Smoked, the Cutter and the Spiatatue. Among them, the Red and Smoked can be considered the first Pecorino Sardo. They were made from raw milk and heated with hot stones. Between 1800 and early 1900 the use of the thermometer and filtration of milk were introduced and other technological innovations move the production of cheeses to what we know now.

The ‘Latteria Sociale Cooperativa’ of Nuoro is located towards the north east of the island. It was formed in 1938 when a group of local breeders decided to take on the process of transformation and commercialization of their milk products and is perhaps typical of the many pecorino cheese makers on the island.  Today the co-operative employs around 10 regular workers and 12 seasonal employees who between them turn out 9,000 quintals of cheese each year.   80% of this amount consists of ‘Pecorino Romano’ while 20% consists of other typical Sardinian cheese.

Pecorino sardo, and fiore sardo, for example are of the 20% catagory.   Pecorino is the name given to all Italian cheese made from Sheep’s milk.  It covers a wide variety of cheeses produced around the country. Pecorino Sardo is a firm cheese from the Italian island of Sardinia which is made from sheep milk: specifically from the milk of the local Sardinian breed. It was awarded Denominazione d’Origine status in 1991 and granted Protected designation of Oringin (PDO) in 1996, the year in which this European Union certification scheme was introduced. Its flavor is different from that of the Pecorino Romano, which is also made on the island. Sardo is richer while romano is much more biting and salty. Pecorino sardo is delicious in contexts where the romano could overpower, such as in pesto the Ligurian pesto alla genovese is traditionally made with a mixture of Pecorino sardo and Parmigiano Reggiano or with fruit.

Pecorino sardo is an uncooked hard cheese made from fresh whole sheep’s milk curdled using lamb or kid rennet. The mixture is poured into drums shaped molds that will give the cheese its characteristic shape. After a brief period in brine, the molds left to ripen in cool cellars in central Sardinia. The flavor of the cheese is determined by their age.  Young or “semi-stagionato” feature a softer texture with mild, creamy flavors. The average weight of the finished product is 3.5 kg (7.7 lb): sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less depending on the conditions of manufacture. The rind varies from deep yellow to dark brown in color and encases a paste that varies from white to straw-yellow. The sharper flavor has been aged longer and is referred to as “stagionato.” They are hard and crumbly in texture with a buttery and nutty flavor and is the most common in the United States.

Pecorino sardo is not as well known outside Italy as Romano or Pecorino Toscano, although a good deal of Pecorino Romano is actually made in Sardinia, as Sardinia is within Romano’s PDO area.  Today this cheese is available in many flavors including Pecorino Pepato spiced with black peppercorns or red chili.  Pecorino Sardo is a good substitute for the more expensive Parmigiano Reggiano.

The firm texture allows this cheese to be kept indefinitely, though the nutty aroma makes it irresistible! Pecorino Sardo pairs well with lighter white wines, Zinfandels and fruity reds.

Cheese Type: Hard

Milk Type: Sheep

Rennet: animal

Age: 3+ months

Origin: Italy

Region: Sardinia

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Filed under Artisan Cheese, Pecorino Sardo

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