Tuesday, May 06, 2014



Pecorino Toscano is one of the most iconic food products in Tuscany – a cheese made exclusively from whole sheep’s milk produced by local farms, in the Italian Central Region of Tuscany.
I read somewhere that tasting Pecorino cheese means entering into Tuscan culture so, as soon as I got to Florence,
 I wanted to taste as many varieties of this cheese.  I also wanted to learn as much as I could about its history and
the way it is produced, and of course eaten.

Pecorino Toscano is the most popular cheese in Tuscany and so it is not surprising  to see infinite amount of local and regional varieties of Pecorino  in shops and food markets.  During my visit to Pienza I entered a pecorino shop by the name of Remo Monaci and was completely overwhelmed by the choice. It had a fantastic selection of Pecorino cheese, and there were about 20 or 30 different Italian cheeses. It is usual to ask to taste a cheese before buying (or not buying) it and the shop keepers were very kind offering pieces of cheese for tasting. Although I was tempted to taste all of them,  I didn't want to wear out their welcome, so I tried just a few of them. They also had great local honey to pair up with the cheese. When tasting cheese, I always start with my eyes, like wine, then my nose and finally my mouth. I taste from the youngest cheese to the most mature or stronger in flavour. In Tuscany pecorino cheese can be found and bought almost everywhere, from supermarkets to small local shops  and fresh produce markets. You can also visit small organic farms and buy it there. 

In all food shops or markets I've been to, in Florence, San Gimignano, Montepulciano or Pienza,  I was amazed by a wide  selection of cheeses they offer. It is something I cannot see in my country Croatia, as we do not have such an abundant selection of cheeses in our shops. Of course, I was mostly interested in pecorino, especially  artisan pecorino cheeses.

Pecorino artigianale or Artisan cheeses are produced by hand using the traditional craftsmanship of skilled cheesemakers. As a result the cheeses are often more complex in taste and variety. These cheeses are made traditionally with milk from the producer's own herd of sheep. Part of the artisanal cheese making process is aging and ripening of the cheeses to develop flavor and textural characteristics. Mass produced cheeses which are produced in large scale operations are more mild in flavours. The best selection of  Pecorino artigianale I saw were in food shops in San Gimignano.

How to recognize Pecorino Toscano

Tuscan Pecorino DOP is a cheese with soft or semi-hard consistency.
Pecorino Toscano is ready for consumption after it is aged 20 days when sold fresh. The fresher type has a rind that varies in colour from yellow to straw yellow. The cheese is white or light yellow, and soft to the touch. It has a fragrant taste that is unmistakable and is defined as “mild”.  It is delicate in texture and has a wonderful, grassy aroma. Because of its softness it doesn't grate well.
After 3 months of maturation, the mature cheese has a yellow to deep yellow rind, but depending on the daubs (tomato, ash or oil) it may even be black or reddish.  The cheese inside is straw-yellow; its flavour is fragrant and intense but never strong.  It is cylindrical in shape with flat surfaces and slightly convex sides.
The diameter of the sides varies from 15 to 22 centimetres; the height of the sides varies from 7 to 11 centimetres and the weight from 0.75 to 3.50 kg.

Since 1996 Tuscan Pecorino Cheese has been one of the products to bear the title “DOP” which stands for “Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin), protected and represented by the Protection Consortium (some 20 members) and its production is regulated by a body of rules.
It means that PECORINO TOSCANO with  DOP on the label, must be made in a specific area, it can only be produced in Tuscany, following specific procedures and regulations on how the cheese is manufactured.
The achievement of this important title is synonymous with tradition, quality, the area it is produced in and with the specific technology.

Tuscan Pecorino DOP can be recognised by its designation of origin, which is stamped on every cheese.
The marking is done after checking the cheeses one by one and verifying that they have been produced fully respecting the production Regulation.
The marking is applied in ink on the side of the cheese, with ink on soft cheeses and with heat on semi-hard cheeses.
On pre-packaged cheeses the marking is done on every single package. The marking included the logo with a stylised P T, the namePecorino Toscano DOP and an acronym that identifies the producer, cheese maturing expert or cutter who place the product on the market.
The label on the cheeses or packages of Tuscan Pecorino bear the name “Pecorino Toscano DOP” or “Pecorino Toscano DOP stagionato”, and the coloured European DOP logo.

Pecorino is the traditional name given to all cheeses that are made from 100% sheep’s milk that come from Italy.
The name Pecorino comes from the Italian word “pecora”, which means sheep.
The four most popular pecorino cheeses are named from the regions in which they are produced: 
Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Sardo, Pecorino Toscano and Pecorino Siciliano.

Pecorino Toscano is considerably milder and less salty than pecorino Romano. With age Pecorino Toscano becomes firmer and sharper, though it never approaches the sharpness or the saltiness of pecorino Romano.
In many ways it resembles Sardinian pecorino -- this isn't as much of a surprise as one might think because a great many Sardinian shepherds migrated to Tuscany during the 60s and 70s. Pecorino Toscano is made throughout Tuscany, though, production is concentrated in the hills of the Maremma, the wild area that extends from Siena down to the coast.


The area of production and ripening of Pecorino Tuscano now includes the entire Tuscany Region, the Umbrian municipalities of Allerona, Castiglione del Lago and the municipalities of Acquapendente, Onano, San Lorenzo Nuovo, Grotte di Castro, Gradoli, Valentano, Farnese, Ischia di Castro, Montefiascone, Bolsena and Capodimonte in the Lazio region. The different climatic conditions and traditions specific to each territory meant that the Tuscan dairy industry grew according to local customs. In this way, despite cheese makers following the same guidelines for the production of Tuscan Pecorino PDO, there is still a variety of tastes and aromas which are due to the small, but meaningful variations brought in by the different areas of production. Today the production of Tuscan Pecorino PDO is limited to the centre and south of Tuscany, but in the past it was spread around all the towns in Tuscany. History tells us that in areas such as Lucardo, a particular marzolino was produced (considered the best Pecorino in Tuscany), while the area of Chianti was a producer of large amounts of Tuscan Pecorino which was then distributed to markets in Florence, where it was particularly appreciated. Another area with a great tradition for the quality of its dairy products is the one connecting Florence to Siena and from there, through the rich pastures and thick woods of the valleys crossed by the rivers Farma, Merse and Cecina, to the Maremma area around Grosseto. Maremma area is today the main production area for Tuscan Pecorino PDO.

There are nearly as many ways to describe the complex, varied tastes of pecorino Toscano, as there are for wine. All these varieties differ from each other, depending on how much they have aged.
Pecorino Toscano is available in three different forms:
  • Fresh, known as pecorino fresco;
  • Semi-hard, or semi-stagionato;
  • and Hard, an extra-aged delicacy known as stagionato
Pecorino Fresco D.O.P.

Pecorino fresco is mild and soft, ideal for use on cheese platters. Eat it on its own, drizzled with bright green extra virgin olive oil (Tuscan of course) or accompanied with raw fava beans and prosciutto as part of a traditional, simple antipasto. 
It is also nice grilled, it melts well which makes it a nice ingredient to add to fillings. Because of its softness it doesn't grate well.

Think of the best thing you have ever put in your mouth, then multiply your happiness by a thousand. That’s fresh pecorino.

Stagionato D.O.P. 

Pecorino is sold fresh, medium-aged and mature. It doesn't get better as it ages, it simply changes in flavour and consistency, and which one you prefer is purely a matter of personal taste.
The more matured cheeses, referred to as stagionato ("seasoned" or "aged" ), are harder but still crumbly in texture and have buttery and nutty flavours. The rind of a matured pecorino is orange or black colour. The longer a pecorino is aged, the harder and saltier it becomes—perfect for grating on pasta or risotto dishes in place of Parmesan cheese!
The other two types, semi-stagionato and fresco, have a light rind,  softer texture and milder cream and milk tastes.

 Cheese maturing
After shaping, cheese has a very different texture, which changes at the time of eating it. It needs to mature with native bacteria, the right temperatures and humidity inside maturing rooms.
Maturation times vary: for soft-paste Tuscan Pecorino DOP the minimum period is 20 days, while semi-hard cheese needs to mature for 4 months.
To allow proper maturation (or ripening) the cheese must be stored in relatively humid rooms, at a temperature between 10° and 12° C and with a good circulation of air. The ideal setting is a room with a long history of maturation behind it. It must in fact have been used for a long time in order to have developed typical micro-biological features that will make the cheese distinguishable from any other.
It's a sort of trademark.
The classical way of maturing cheese is for shapes to be placed on wooden planks, turned around often, cleaned regularly, and, when maturation is long, well oiled (with olive oil residue), and perhaps passed through ashes.
In order to check the stage of the maturation process, the cheese is beaten with a hammer and tasted by extracting samples. The final product is the result of many variables, some natural, others man-made, which are the fruit of a long process that requires time, patience and constant care.
To reach the right degree of aging, the cheese is kept constantly under the control of the farmer, the cheese maker and finally the maturing expert. These people know the exact "history" of each cheese, and they know how to bring the best out of cheese's potential taste, revealing its typical and unmistakable traits.
The result of this work and the experience of professionals allows for a final product that is a truly typical and unique cheese.

It is one of Italy’s oldest cheeses and one of the oldest cheeses in the world.  Earliest records of pecorino cheese production in Tuscany go back to Etruscan and Roman times. So it is dated back as far as more than 2000 years.
Roman authors, Pliny the Elde and Hippocrates have mentioned about the cheese and its production technique, in their works. Pliny the Elder, in 1 A.D., describes this round high quality piece of cheese that the Etruscans from Luni were producing and selling in Rome.  
The story goes that a high-quality cheese arrived in Rome from a city of Etruscan origin, Luni. Pliny the Elder remembered the unusual size of this round piece of cheese, called Lunense after its city of origin in the region of today’s Lunigiana.
Pecorino toscano’s original name was “marzolino” because its production began in March and lasted until the end of the spring. It was called “cacio Marzolino”  (March cheese), as it is in March that sheep milk production is at its top in quantity and quality.
Since Etruscan times, evidence has existed that Maremma was original production area of Pecorino Toscano.  Maremma is the wild hilly area that extends from Siena on down to the coast.
Today, the cheese is made and matured throughout the region of Tuscany and parts of Umbria and Latium.
In the Fifteenth Century the “Marzolino of Etruria” was celebrated along with “Parmesan” as the best cheese in Italy, in a text by Platina. In the Seventeenth century we find references to Pecorino Toscano produced in areas around Siena and Florence and then, in particular the variety produced in Val d’Elsa and Val di Pesa. Towards the end of the Eighteenth Century in Francesco Mulinelli memoirs on the cheeses of Tuscany (Sopra i formaggi di Toscana) descriptions are given of the most delicious Pecorino cheeses produced in Tuscany.
Sheep farming, pastorizia in Italian, has played an important role in the lives of Mediterranean families for centuries. 

In ancient times, a small herd of sheep—offering milk, cheese and meat, as well as fleece for clothing—could sustain nearly all of a family’s needs. Because pecorino cheese could be wrapped in cloth and sustained for weeks at a time, it was an essential part of cuisine for all types of travelers—shepherds and soldiers included.
Pecorino remained a predominantly Roman and Tuscan delicacy up until when the local taxes on salt, used for the salting of pecorino cheeses, led to the move of  pecorino production from Tuscany  to the island of Sardinia where it flourished until the end of world war II. In the early 70s many skilled Sardinian farmers and shepherds moved back  to regions like Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio, where they started new farms. That is the reason why in many ways Pecorino Toscano resembles Sardinian pecorino.
In the Manuale del pecoraio (Shepherd’s manual) by clergyman in charge Ignazio Balenotti, in 1832, it is shown that the processing techniques were largely standardized throughout the region and consequently the final product, Tuscan Pecorino cheese, was then already a cheese produced throughout Tuscany.
As in all parts of humankind’s life, the evolution of science and technology have brought large-scale modifications for Tuscan Pecorino cheese as well, however, it is still anchored in the traditional production of that Etruscan cheese sold in the streets of ancient Rome.

 Tuscany is the “Land of Sheep”- a region where the climates and landscapes have formed shepherding traditions as old as the villages. 
The name Pecorino comes from the Italian word “pecora”, which means sheep.
“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are,” said Brillat-Savarin, one of the most influential gastronomy writers of all time. Adapted to Italian pecorino cheese, we might say: “Tell us what your sheep eats, and we’ll tell you all about your pecorino.”

The flocks of sheep, whose milk is used to make Pecorino,  are reared on the land defined by the Regulation as the "area of origin".
The unique and complex flavors of Pecorino Toscano cheeses are undeniably linked to where the sheep were raised and on what types of grasses they feed. Since ancient times, throughout much of Italy, herds of sheep and goats, led by devoted dogs and nomadic shepherds, undergo a yearly transumanza — a seasonal migration. These herds head toward greener, cooler pastures during the summer, returning home in the autumn.
In winter, the flocks migrate to milder areas closer to the coasts, as the green plains of the Maremma in Tuscany or Sardinia’s Campidano region.  In late summer, the same grasses from the pastures on which the sheep graze, are collected and dried into hay for the sheep to eat in the winter, if they do not migrate.
A great pecorino cheese contains all the layered scents and aromas of the open pastures where the sheep graze. 
The number of sheep bred in Tuscany rose until 1918, then numbers fell off sharply leading also to a fall in sheep related products.
At the beginning of the Thirties another crisis engulfed sheep breeding and led to a number of changes that in the end managed to radically transform the facilities producing Tuscan Pecorino cheese and the processes employed, in the Fifties: production by sharefarmers and shepherds diminished, the first dairies were formed, local production disappeared and even greater uniformity was achieved in the production of the Tuscan Pecorino cheese both fresh and aged. In the Fifties the Tuscan Agricultural Inspectorate of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests published a booklet called Il formaggio pecorino (Pecorino Cheese), the aim of which was to describe the standard production technique to follow to obtain fresh and aged pecorino cheese.
Over the centuries, sheep grazing and breeding become widespread throughout the region up to the development it has seen in recent times.
With the establishment of the first dairies, the figure of the shepherd as the breeder of sheep became separate from that of the dairyman, the authentic cheese- making craftsman.

The breeders

Sheep have fulfilled man’s primary needs since ancient times, providing milk, meat and wool.   These animals were very probably first domesticated in the circa 10,000 BC. Over the centuries, various livestock breeding techniques followed one another and were refined, in some cases maintaining customs and traditions for the exclusive benefit of the flavour and organoleptic characteristics of the final product.  
Today sheep are reared in the wild, semi-wild and intensive states. In Italy, although all three types of farming exist, the wild state is preferred, particularly in the Tuscan Pecorino PDO  production areas. With this type of breading, practised all the year round, the animals live in the open and almost exclusively eat the grass that grows in their pasture, possibly with some hay and concentrated fodder supplements.
In Tuscany, sheep farming has spread throughout the region, but the largest concentration is in the provinces of Siena and Grosseto, where about 70 % of the entire stock is reared. After the second World War , sheep farming in Tuscany experienced a sharp decline, but a huge salvage operation was undertaken in this sector thanks to the activity of Sardinian farmers. Nowadays farmers concentrate almost exclusively on milk production, so that the region of Tuscany is in second place after Sardinia for ewe’s milk production.  Quality of Tuscan Pecorino cheese is guaranteed by the Consortium for the Protection of Tuscan Pecorino PDO. The Consortium numbers 17 dairies, that currently collect milk from 845 breeders. Of these, 245 are directly associated with the  Consortium for the Protection of Tuscan Pecorino PDO.
Some breeds of sheep in Tuscany are: Zerasca, Casciana, Casentinese, Maremmana, Senese.  
These sheep graze on the wonderful Tuscan fields, filled with berries, herbs, fresh flowers, and perhaps wild onions making the milk full of fabulous flavor. The delicious milk is then converted into Pecorino Toscano.

Tuscan Pecorino PDO is produced using the most modern techniques, which faithfully reproduce procedures handed down over the centuries. Artisan cheese makers often demonstrate the fine art of producing pecorino which is usually created using the following traditional method. 
Each pecorino requires 5l of sheep milk.The full fat sheep's milk is strained and heated at a temperature between 33 and 38°. It is then removed from the heat and an ingredient called rennet is added. This helps the milk solids to curdle and start the formation of what will become the cheese. Milk is curdled  with rennet for about 20 minutes The mixture is stirred and left for an hour until it thickens. A whisk is used to break up the rennet.
When the curd breaks up, the lumps must reach the size of a hazelnut for soft Pecorino cheese, and the size of a grain of rice for semi-hard cheese.Then the curd is put in specially prepared moulds for the whey to drain.
The pressing is carried out manually or by steaming. Salting is carried out by brining or by adding salt to the cheese itself. Dry-salted by hand, the wheels get a salting numerous times, to deliver a fabulous taste.  Soft Pecorino is salted for at least 8 hours, while semi-hard cheese is salted for at least 12-14 hours.Then the cheese is shaped into large wheels. During this time, it is wrapped in moisture absorbing material which is regularly replaced. Finally the cheeses are placed in ripening rooms (a dark dry place where cheeses mature). Tuscan Pecorino PDO must mature in suitable locations at a temperature of 5-12° C with a relative humidity of 75-90%. The minimum period of time is 20 days for soft Pecorino and 4 months (at least) for semi-hard cheese. The pecorino will mature up to a year for stagionato.
When young, the cheese has a soft and rubbery texture with sweet and aromatic flavor. The flavor becomes sharper and smokier when aged for eight months or longer.
The shape of the finished product is cylindrical with flat surfaces, and a diameter ranging between 15 and 22 cm; the side is slightly convex, measuring between 7 and 11 cm. The weight of the shapes varies from 0.75 to 3.50 kg. The crust's colour is

a variety of shades of yellow. The paste is pale yellow in soft-paste Tuscan Pecorino and straw-yellow for mature cheese. An indispensable element for its marketing is the ink marking for the fresh product and hot marking for the mature cheese, which is performed only on shapes that meet all the requirements under the Production Regulation.

THE MANCIANO CASEIFICIO SOCIALE – This Cooperative Agricultural Society was born in 1961 from the desire of 21 local farmers with the aim of valorizing the production of sheep’s milk within the Maremma region in the province of Grosseto.
Today the Cooperative without doubt has met its first objective, uniting around 330 producers of sheep and cow’s milk over 11 cities in the province of Grosseto and 2 in the province of Viterbo.
The dairies respect antique traditions while using modern equipment, producing sheep’s milk and mixed-milk cheeses, which thanks to the fresh and “light” flavor of the softest cheeses and sharp flavor of the more aged cheeses, along with the unmistakable ricotta cheese, bring joy to dinner tables throughout Italy.

Here is the process of making formaggio at famous Tuscan cheese factory Caseificio Sociale Manciano

The taste varies not only according to the quality of the sheep’s milk, but also according to the way it is preserved and aged. In some cases, spices or herbs are added during the production process. There are also regional differences within Tuscany where Pecorino is produced with un-pasteurised milk or where the characteristic oval shape of the maturing cheese is rubbed with olive oil, tomato paste or salt to give the cheese a particular local style and flavour.
Some of the more popular pecorino cheeses include:

In Southern Italy, it is traditional to add black peppercorns to Pecorino, producing what is called Pecorino Pepato (literally, "peppered Pecorino"). Pecorino Pepato is a gourmet Italian sheep's milk cheese studded with peppercorns. It's an intense, spicy, salty cheese that can be eaten on its own as a tasty addition to antipasto platters, alongside nuts and olives. It is also used as a seasoning for pasta or rissoto dishes, pizzas, vegetables - especially with fava beans or tomato sauce. Traditional pecorino pepato comes from Sicily, where it is part of the regional cooking, but now it is made also in Lazio and in Tuscany.  A  glass of good Pinot Noir brings out the best in Pepato.

Pecorino cheese is studded with chilli or red chilli flakes throughout. The taste is at first sweet but as the chilli hits the full hot spicy taste it becomes quite hot.
You can  serve it  with a salad sprinkled with a hot spicy Tuscan olive oil, melt it on toast  or grate over pasta.

Aged over fir planks, this special aromatic Tuscan pecorino is flavored with black truffles and a subtle bite of herbs and garlic. Perfectly paired with fruity sweet flavors: Pinot Noir wines, fruity beers, melons, berries and sun-dried tomatoes.  It also goes well with sausage made from wild boar, a specialty of Tuscany. If you don’t have boar sausage handy, it goes fabulously with any tangy dry salami or cured pork product, olives and olive oil, pickled or preserved vegetables, and a dry red wine such as Chianti. While I wouldn’t add this cheese to a soup or sandwich where it might get lost, it is wonderful grated over pasta, scrambled eggs or any creamy dish where you’d like the richness of a complex cheese and the aroma of truffles.
Pecorino di pienza rosso
 The mildest of this incredible family of sheep's milk cheeses, the Rosso is rubbed with tomato paste before its short 45 day aging run begins. This gives the cheese its notable pink rind. A fantastic addition to any cheese plate.

 Pecornio Foglie di Noce (literally translated as Pecorino Aged in Walnut Leaves) is a pressed sheep's milk cheese from Tuscany. While aging, the wheels are wrapped in fresh, green walnut leaves and rubbed daily with olive oil.  It is left to age for months in ventilated caves. When they are removed from the caves, the cheese wheels reveal the aroma of walnut leaves.
Cheese makers have historically wrapped their cheeses for two reasons-to preserve them and flavor them. Long before the availability of paper, farmers used leaves to wrap and preserve cheeses. Leaves acted as a natural barrier to the elements, creating a seal which kept moisture in the cheese. While preserving cheeses, the leaves also influenced the flavor of the cheeses. Today, many cheese makers use various leaves, herbs and even tree bark to expand the complexity of their cheeses.
Hearty and rustic, Pecorino Foglie di Noce is visually striking and absolutely delicious. Pair this cheese with crisp, dry Italian white wines, Sauvignon Blancs, or any Italian red or dry white wines. In the kitchen, this cheese tastes wonderful with artichokes and raw vegetables.


Probably the most successful pecorino abroad is Pecorino Romano, D.O.P. Such a certification guarantees strict methods
 of production are followed. Romano is produced only in the regions of Lazio, Sardinia and Tuscany, made from specific breeds of sheep. Pecorino Romano is one of most widely used, sharper alternatives to Parmesan cheeses. Because of the hard texture and sharp & salty flavor, Pecorino Romano is an excellent grating cheese over pasta dishes, breads and baking casseroles. Although, the use of the cheese is limited because of its extreme saltiness. Unlike other varieties,  in Italy it’s considered unsuitable as a formaggio da tavola, or table cheese, and is mostly used to finish pasta dishes. Pair it with a glass of big, bold Italian red wine or a light beer.


Pecorino Ginepro is an unpasteurized sheep's milk cheese. It is rubbed with sweet, rich Balsamic vinegar and olive oil and covered with juniper berries (borovice ili neke bobice od smreke?), aged for over 4 months in small oak barrels. This semi hard cheese is full flavored, and salty with a hint of sweetness. Enjoy it with freshly cut pears and walnuts and pour a glass of Syrah or a bubbly, dry Prosecco.

HOW TO EAT PECORINO – serving suggestions
Unlike the Italians of many northern regions, Tuscans don't mess much with their cheese: it is not often used as an ingredient in dishes but rather is enjoyed on its own. Pecorino should be taken out of the refrigerator about an hour before being eaten, in order to let it regain its natural softness and to open up its taste.
Simplicity is the essence of pecorino. Italians often eat it alone, accompanied simply with olives or other marinated antipasti—such as artichokes and eggplant or even raw vegetables like fava beans. This famous cheese goes perfectly along with spicy salami, prosciutto, capicola and dry-cured Italian sausages. Or just with crusty home made Tuscan bread, flavoured with some good olive oil, olives and a generous glass of red wine and... as Italians say „puoi toccare il cielo“ (you can touch the sky.)
There is a wide range of uses for pecorino cheese, which varies according to local traditions and the season. The delicate flavour of a young pecorino Toscano can provide an excellent complement to salad-based starters. As the cheese matures and the flavour strengthens, it can be eaten with honey or jam. A good Pecorino Stagionato is often the finish of a meal, served with pears and walnuts, figs and berries or drizzled with strong Tuscan chestnut honey.
Well matured pecorino Toscano is widely used across Italy as an alternative to more expensive Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating over a wide range of dishes, especially pastas or soups. It is grated over Tuscan ribollita [bread soup]. The most common accompaniment to pasta dishes, pecorino is an essential cheese in Italian cuisine.

Matching wines
Soft Tuscan Pecorino can be matched with red and white wines such as: Bianco di Pitigliano, Monteregio di Massa Marittima or Montecucco Bianco and Rosso, while the mature Pecorino can be combined with red wines such as Morellino di Scansano or Chianti Classico; for cheeses that have been ripened for more than eight months, you can opt for a Brunello di Montalcino.

Tips for storing pecorino
In order to taste it at its best and to maintain the product's aromatic features, the Tuscan Pecorino PDO must be stored in a cool, dry place, under the same conditions that are found in the maturation cellars. You can store it in a cellar together with the wine (temperature less than 15 degrees Celsius and humidity of 80 percent), wrapped in a damp cotton cloth.
When this is not possible, store it in the least cold part of the refrigerator, best if wrapped in a cotton cloth and protecting the cut with cling film.
If it is an aged pecorino and some of the mould from the rind makes it way to the rest of the cheese, just scrape it off with the blunt side of a butter knife. It is still good!


The province of Siena is the heart of pecorino production in Tuscany and the tiny town of Pienza is the jewel in the crown.
Pienza, the Renaissance hilltop town, between the winemaking towns Montepulciano and Montalcino, in the Val d'Orcia,
is the capital city of the “Pecorino”.  It organizes every year, on the second Sunday of September, the“Fiera del Cacio” or the Festival of the local sheep cheese.
The milk is particularly aromatic because of the configuration of the land where many aromatic herbs grow. The sheep all freely graze and produce a perfumed milk  from which the cheese is made. Pienza Pecorino cheese has the D.O.P. European label and is very highly regarded. The taste of Pienza Pecorino comes both from the types of grass and herbs consumed by the sheep, and the manufacturing techniques.
There are a great number of dairy farms around the town, and Pienza's cobblestoned streets  are lined with cheese shops, such as Remo Monaci, where you can taste a huge variety of pecorinos with local honeys.
You can smell the fragrance of pecorino when you walk past the well-stocked cheese stores on the main street. Cheese, especially pecorino, is the bread and butter of this town and Pecorino di Pienza is one of the most prized of all Tuscan cheeses. In many shops you can find all types of pecorino: fresco (fresh), semistagionato (semi-aged) or stagionato (aged).
The variety of aging styles – invecchiamenti – are astounding.  Some are aged in walnut leafs (Folgie di Noce), others are covered in ashes (Sotto Cenere) or wrapped in grape skins (In Vinaccia) to make "drunk" cheese. I could also see soft versions of pecorino mixed with cayenne pepper or truffle and more aged versions of Red pecorino (Rosso)– whose color comes from being rubbed with tomatoes.

 I read that you can take a custom made tour of Val d'Orcia which includes a visit to a cheese producer where you can discover how the local pecorino sheep cheeses are made and you can sample pecorino in the many stages of aging. Unfortunatelly, I didn't visit Pienza and Montepulciano with an organised group, but on my own. I went there by train and bus, so I didn't have time to visit a farm where pecorino is made. This I would leave for another trip to this wonderful area, which I would hopefully make.
I also visited Montepulciano, a nearby town, which is known for its red wines. The most famous is the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a medium body wine, rich in color with a good tannin structure. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is made from a Sangiovese clone that is locally known as Prugnolo Gentile. As early as the seventeenth century it was crowned by many as as "the king of Tuscan wines". It was a favourite wine of Tuscan nobility and aristocracy and it became known as 'noble' and 'aristocratic' wine, hence the name.
Pienza Pecorino cheese and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are undoubtely a perfect match!!!!


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