Pecorino Crotonese PDO is a semi-cooked hard cheese produced as Fresco (fresh), Semiduro (semi-hard), Stagionato (mature) and grated, and is obtained exclusively from whole sheep’s milk drawn from animals raised in the production area.
The whole sheep’s milk, taken from between 2 and 4 daily milkings, can be used raw, thermised or pasteurised. It is curdled with the addition of kid rennet paste at a temperature of between 36-38° C, for 40-50 minutes. Natural lactic cultures may be used. The curd is broken until it is the size of rice grains. They are left to settle on the bottom of the boiler until they form a compact mass. If raw milk is used, the cheese mass is taken out in pieces and transferred to basket molds for shaping; if thermised/pasteurised milk is used, the cheese mass is left to drain directly into the basket molds together with the whey. The obtained wheels are pressed manually or placed one on top of another (or steamed) before being immersed in hot whey for a few minutes. The wheels are dry salted or salted in brine, a solution of water and sea salt. The ripening period varies depending on the type of product and must take place in cool, slightly ventilated environments, or suitably equipped sandstone caves. For semi-hard cheeses the ripening process must last for between 60 and 90 days, and a further 90 days for the mature version.
Appearance and Flavour
Pecorino Crotonese PDO has a cylindrical shape, flat surfaces and straight or slightly convex edges; it weighs 0.5-5 kg, although cheeses ripened for over 6 months can weigh anything up to 10 kg. The size varies depending on the weight: the height of the edges can be from 6 to 30 cm and the diameter of the surfaces from 10 to 30 cm. Pecorino Crotonese PDO Fresco is soft, sweet, milk white or slightly straw yellow in colour, with occasional eyes. It has a sharp, smooth and slightly bitter flavour; the thin straw yellow rind has the typical markings left by the basket mold. The semi-hard variety is compact with occasional eyes; it has an intense and slightly piquant flavour and a thick light brown rind. Pecorino Crotonese PDO Stagionato has an intense, sharp flavour with a slightly piquant aftertaste. The cheese is white with small eyes; the rind is hard and brown. On cutting, the cheese releases a faint aroma of sheep’s milk, harmoniously blended with other characteristic smells, such as hay, mature field grasses, with a hint of smoke and hazelnut.
The production and ripening area for Pecorino Crotonese PDO is within the territory of numerous municipalities in the provinces of Crotone, Catanzaro and Cosenza, in the Calabria region.
Pecorino Crotonese PDO is a constitutive element of the rural zones in the production area. There is evidence of its presence in this region since before the Middle Ages, and there are documents dating back to the XVI century showing that it was exported.
Pecorino Crotonese PDO is generally used as a table cheese in the fresh, semi-hard and mature varieties, served with homemade bread and honey, or marmalades suitable for pairing with cheese. It is also used grated to give flavour to pasta dishes and vegetable soups. The mature variety is delicious when served with other regional delicacies, such as sun-dried tomatoes, marinated chili peppers and marinated Cipolla Rossa di Tropea Calabria PGI.
The product is marketed as Pecorino Crotonese PDO and is available as Fresco, Semiduro, Stagionato and grated. It is sold year-round, in whole wheels, slices and portions, suitably labelled and recognisable. The fire-branded logo or adhesive labels with the logo must be visible on the heel.
The organoleptic characteristics of Pecorino Crotonese PDO are determined by the environmental characteristics of the territory and the sheep breeding techniques. The traditional mountain grazing and semi-free range practices help to protect the sheep from environmental and nutritional stress during the summer heat, as well as the fact that they mainly feed on the wild flora of the pastures, thereby preserving the aromatic content and properties of the milk.