Pecorino Toscano PDO is a soft or semi-hard cheese produced with whole sheep’s milk. There are two versions: Fresco (fresh – ripened for a minimum of 20 days) and Stagionato (mature – ripened for at least four months).
The production area of Pecorino Toscano PDO is comprised of the entire Tuscany region, and some neighbouring municipalities in the Province of Viterbo, in the Lazio region, and the provinces of Perugia and Terni, in the Umbria region.
The milk must be curdled at a temperature of between 33 and 38°C, with the addition of calf or vegetable rennet so that it curdles within 20-25 minutes. The milk can be raw or heat treated until pasteurised and may be inoculated with native natural or selected starter cultures. To obtain the Pecorino Toscano PDO Stagionato version, after breaking, the curd can - but not necessarily - be subjected to a heat treatment at 40 -42°C for 10-15 minutes. The curd is then placed in molds to purge the whey. Purging is done by manual pressing or by stufatura (a process using heat and steam). The product is then dry salted or salted in brine. The duration depends on the weight of the wheel, but on average the Soft cheese is left for about 16 hours, and the Mature version for about 24 hours. Pecorino Toscano PDO may be treated externally with an anti-mould agent and must be ripened in suitable environments at a temperature of 5-15°C, for a period of at least 20 days for the soft cheese and no less than four months for the semi-hard cheese.
Appearance and Flavour
Pecorino Toscano PDO has a cylindrical shape, flat surfaces, with a slightly convex edge. The diameter ranges from 15 to 22 cm and the weight can varying from 0.75 to 3.50 kg. It is characterised by a yellow rind, the tone of which depends on the treatments carried out. The cheese is compact, soft on cutting and white in colour, slightly straw coloured for the Soft typology, tender on cutting and with the possible presence of minute eyes, which are not evenly distributed in the Mature cheese. It has a fragrant and pronounced flavour, depending on the production methods.
It is said that the breeding of sheep in Tuscany dates back as far as the Etruscan period, but the first historical references to Pecorino Toscano PDO are from the Roman period. In the XV century it was known by the name of cacio marzolino (March cheese) because production began in March and continued throughout the Spring. This cheese has been produced according to specific guidelines since the XIX century.
Pecorino Toscano PDO is best conserved in a cool, dry place. It is preferable not to put it in the fridge, but if so, it should be placed in the least cold compartment and wrapped in a slightly damp cotton cloth. This product can be used as a table cheese or for grating, depending on how mature it is. It is excellent for grating on Tuscan Ribollita soup, pasta dishes, or to add flavour to meat-based dishes. Whether Soft or Mature, it pairs well with fresh seasonal vegetables or fruit, jam and honey. Pecorino Toscano PDO goes well with white or red wines depending on its age.
Pecorino Toscano PDO is characterised by its sweet flavour, which is never sapid or piquant. This particular attribute is given to the use of calf rennet or vegetable rennet in the processing method and the briefer salting process compared to other varieties of pecorino cheese.