Piacentinu Ennese PDO is a pressed mature cheese obtained with raw whole sheep’s milk from the Sicilian Comisana, Pinzirita, Valle del Belice breeds and their crossbreeds, with the addition of saffron and black pepper corns.
The production area of Piacentinu Ennese PDO is within the entire territory of the municipalities of Enna, Aidone, Assoro, Barrafranca, Calascibetta, Piazza Armerina, Pietraperzia, Valguarnera and Villarosa in the Province of Enna, in the Sicily region.
Sheep’s milk from one or two consecutive milkings is used and it must be processed within 24 hours. The milk is brought to the cooking temperature (38°C) and transferred into a wooden vat (tina), where saffron and rennet pastes are added; the rennet originates from calves and kids that are reared in the production area. The saffron is also produced locally and is characterised by an elevated crocin and picrocrocin content, which gives the cheese an intense and characteristic bouquet. After curdling, the cheese curd is broken with a pole (rotula) to obtain grains the size of a rice grain. The cheese mass is then transferred to a wooden or steel table, cut and put into cane baskets (fascedde); black pepper corns are added before putting the curd in the baskets. The forms are pressed by hand to stimulate the purging of the whey. The baskets are then inserted into the tina and covered with a hot sheet for 3-4 hours. Finally, the basket mold is removed and the cheeses are left to cool, before being sprinkled evenly with large salt grains (dry salting); this operation is repeated after ten days. The cheese is ripened for at least 60 days.
Appearance and Flavour
Piacentinu Ennese PDO has a cylindrical shape and weighs 3.5-4.5 kg. The rind is soft and elastic, whilst the cheese is smooth and bright yellow in colour, varying in intensity, due to the addition of saffron; there are only a few eyes. Its appearance is also characterised by the presence of black pepper corns. The flavour ranges from mild to medium piquant, depending on how mature it is, and it has a characteristic aroma with light notes of saffron.
The origin of the production of Piacentinu Ennese PDO is linked to both the diary processing of sheep’s milk, which was already widely spread in the distant past, and the cultivation of saffron. Legend tells that the addition of saffron to the milk during production goes back to the period of the Norman domination (XI century); the story tells that Roger the Norman, in order to cure his wife Adelasia who suffered from deep depression and loved cheese, ordered the preparation of a cheese with revitalising properties. In fact, saffron has always been famous for its stimulating and energising properties.
Piacentinu Ennese PDO should be kept in the fridge closed in a food container or wrapped in greaseproof paper. It may be eaten either as a table cheese or used as an ingredient to prepare various recipes. In the first case, the particular aromatic characteristics given to the saffron can be better appreciated. However, in Sicilian tradition it is also used in the bread coating of meats and for first courses (e.g. pasta with free-range chicken broth) or for the capretto abbuttunato, a typical dish from Enna.
The product is marketed as Piacentinu Ennese PDO. It is sold year-round in whole forms.
The presence of Terpineol, a particular type of terpene, has been discovered in Piacentinu Ennese PDO; this aromatic substance comes from the typical forage essences on which the sheep feed in the pastures of the production area.