Pecorino Siciliano PDO is a semi-cooked hard cheese, produced with raw whole sheep’s milk obtained from animals reared within the production area.
The milk is curdled with lamb rennet paste at a temperature of 36-38°C. The curd, after having being purged of the whey by hand, is left to rest in typical reed baskets, known as fascedde, which leave an imprint on the wheel.
The cheese is then browned for about four hours and, after 24 hours, dry salted.
The entire surface of the cheese is covered in salt and the operation is repeated twice, at a distance of ten days apart; the forms are washed with brine if they show signs of drying out. Ripening is carried out at a temperature of 12-16°C, with a relative humidity of 70-80%, and lasts for at least four months. During the ripening stage, the forms are turned within the basket several times, in order to give them their characteristic cylindrical shape with flat or slightly curved surfaces, as well as the typical markings that are left by the basket; during this stage, the forms can also be basted with oil or oily deposits.
Apparence and flavour
Pecorino Siciliano PDO has a cylindrical shape with flat surfaces; the edges are 10-18 cm high; the weight varies from 4 to 12 kg.
The rind, which ranges from white to pale yellow in colour, has a wrinkled surface that bears the marks of the woven baskets. The cheese is hard and compact, white or straw yellow in colour, with a few eyes. It has a piquant, fresh and floral aroma; the taste is pronounced and fruity, more piquant when the cheese has been ripened for a long period of time.
It is best to conserve Pecorino Siciliano PDO wrapped in baking paper and placed in a sealed plastic or glass container.
It should be kept in a cool place or in the least cold compartment of the fridge, at a temperature of 4°C.
Semi-mature Pecorino Siciliano PDO is delicious on its own, while the more mature cheese is especially good for grating, adding flavour to pasta dishes.
Due to its piquant flavour, it is also a great table cheese, ideal to serve with bread and olives, which tend to bring out the cheese’s strong flavour.
It goes well with Sicilian PDO wines, especially if they are full-bodied.
The product is marketed as Pecorino Siciliano PDO. It is sold year-round, whole, in large pieces, or sliced; it is vacuum-packed and must display the following on the label: Consortium logo, PDO seal, the EC number of the production company and the eat-by date.
The surface of Pecorino Siciliano PDO has unique markings created by the baskets, called fascedde, in which the curd is placed after having had the whey purged by hand. The organoleptic characteristics of Pecorino Siciliano PDO are distinguished by a balanced flavour that is given to a combination of elements. The diet of the sheep from which the milk is obtained plays a fundamental role, as well as the fat content of the milk itself.
Pecorino Siciliano PDO is produced with a traditional method, the ancient origins of which make it one of the oldest cheeses produced in Europe.
Over the centuries it has been referred to in many well-known works: in The Odyssey, Homer tells of sheep cheeses produced by the Cyclops,
Polyphemus, and in the section about cheeses in Naturalis Historia by Pliny the Elder, Sicilian cheese is defined as being one of the most delicious.
The production area of Pecorino Siciliano PDO is within the entire territory of the Sicily region.