In an aperitif, in a cutting board together with a good glass of wine, in an appetizer, in a picnic surrounded by the beautiful countryside. Pecorino, the most typical of Val d’Orcia cheeses, can never be missed.
Pliny the Elder, in his Naturalis historia, tells how the Etruscans used to produce large wheels of excellent pecorino cheese, and many centuries later it is Lorenzo de’ Medici, known as Il Magnifico, who appreciates its aromas and flavors.
In short, in this corner of Tuscany, in this corner of the Val d’Orcia, famous for its gastronomic treasures, pecorino is a prince of the table, and among the stores, taverns and restaurants one is spoiled for choice.
Sardinian shepherds, who came to the Val d’Orcia in the late 1970s, saved the tradition of sheep’s milk cheese, continuing a dairy art that comes from afar. The aromas change depending on the season, the freshness of the herbs, and the ripeness of the pecorino cheese wheel.
It starts with milking: the sheep, of Sardinian, Comisana, Apennine and Massese breeds, are milked once or twice a day, for a period that can vary from 100 to 200 days. An average of 70 to 300 liters of milk is produced in each lactation, depending on the age of the animal and the breed. The milk then arrives at the dairy where it is immediately processed; then the different stages follow: very important is the addition of rennet, which allows the coagulation of the proteins that enables the milk to go from a liquid to a semi-solid state. After that comes the breaking up of the curd, a middle product between milk and cheese. When the curd is ready, it is broken into more or less large lumps; and after breaking, it is placed inside special molds to promote syneresis, that is, the draining of whey and give shape to the cheese.
After forming whey draining and salting are important, At this point there is the maturing stage, where the temperature and humidity of the environment in which the cheese matures are crucial, a period that can vary from a few weeks to a few months, depending on whether one prefers a fresh, semi-mature or mature cheese.
Val d’Orcia pecorino has a cylindrical shape and sizes ranging from 1 to 2 kg. The paste, straw-yellow in color, is soft and sweet if the cheese is fresh, tangy and crumbly if it is aged.