Pecorino Sardo P.D.O.
 
History
History

Pecorino Sardo is one of Sardinia’s oldest cheeses and boasts a long history with roots that can be traced back to the age of the Nuragic civilization, a people more devoted to sheep rearing than agriculture. The first specific historical information regarding the cheese’s ancient origins dates back to the end of the 18th century. The cheeses were called back then Bianco [White], Rosso Fino [Fine Red], Affumicato [Smoked], Fresa and Spiatatu. Among these, Rosso Fino and Affumicato, cheeses made with raw milk or with milk heated with red-hot stones, are truly considered to be the ancestors of Pecorino Sardo.

 

 
 

Pecorino Sardo P.D.O. is made exclusively with the full-fat milk of Sardinian ewes, and comes in two different varieties: Dolce (mild) and Maturo (mature), which differ in production technique, size, aging and organoleptic characteristics. Pecorino Sardo Dolce is shaped like a cylinder and weighs approximately 2 kg. It has an aromatic and slightly acidulous taste, a thin crust pale yellow in color, and a general compact texture that is soft and springy and white in color. Pecorino Sardo Maturo, also shaped like a cylinder, weighs between 3 and 4 kg. It has a strong and slightly sharper taste, a compact crust that is straw-yellow or brown in color, and a springy texture with sparse holes that is either white or slightly straw-yellow colored, depending on the degree of maturation. The production process begins by adding autochthonous lactic acid ferments to the full-fat sheep’s milk from the established area of origin that is potentially thermized or pasteurized, and then curdling it with calf rennet. The curd created is then broken down until the grains reach either the size of hazelnuts for the Dolce product, or the size of corn kernels for the Maturo product. Finally, the cheese is partially cooked and molded into round forms so as to retain its wheel shape, that varies depending on whether they are Dolce or Maturo. When the right amount of whey has been discharged, the cheese can be salted, wet or dry, usually for a short amount of time. The duration of the salting depends again on the variety of the cheese. The following step is the maturation in designated temperature and humidity controlled chambers. The Pecorino Sardo Dolce’s maturation process is completed within 20-60 days, while the Pecorino Sardo Maturo needs to mature for at least two months before it can be released, but can continue ripening in its confines for over a year. At the moment of the cheese’s release, whether in Dolce or Maturo form, it is carefully tested and, if meeting the requirements of the specification, is then marked with an indelible food ink stamp that contains the initials of the designation in capital letters, i.e. PS D.O.P. along with the identification code of the cheese maker. When the cheese is ready to be sold on the market, an additional verification of compliance is conducted, followed by the affixation of the label, on which the designation is radially arranged. The original visual identification of the cheese wheels is supplemented by the addition of an adhesive mark with an alphanumeric code issued by the Consortium of Protection that univocally identifies each wheel of cheese: a green mark stands for Pecorino Sardo Dolce, a blue mark for Pecorino Sardo Maturo.

Production and identification of the forms
Production and identification of the forms
Production and identification of the forms

Pecorino Sardo P.D.O. is made exclusively with the full-fat milk of Sardinian ewes, and comes in two different varieties: Dolce (mild) and Maturo (mature), which differ in production technique, size, aging and organoleptic characteristics. Pecorino Sardo Dolce is shaped like a cylinder and weighs approximately 2 kg. It has an aromatic and slightly acidulous taste, a thin crust pale yellow in color, and a general compact texture that is soft and springy and white in color. Pecorino Sardo Maturo, also shaped like a cylinder, weighs between 3 and 4 kg. It has a strong and slightly sharper taste, a compact crust that is straw-yellow or brown in color, and a springy texture with sparse holes that is either white or slightly straw-yellow colored, depending on the degree of maturation. The production process begins by adding autochthonous lactic acid ferments to the full-fat sheep’s milk from the established area of origin that is potentially thermized or pasteurized, and then curdling it with calf rennet. The curd created is then broken down until the grains reach either the size of hazelnuts for the Dolce product, or the size of corn kernels for the Maturo product. Finally, the cheese is partially cooked and molded into round forms so as to retain its wheel shape, that varies depending on whether they are Dolce or Maturo. When the right amount of whey has been discharged, the cheese can be salted, wet or dry, usually for a short amount of time. The duration of the salting depends again on the variety of the cheese. The following step is the maturation in designated temperature and humidity controlled chambers. The Pecorino Sardo Dolce’s maturation process is completed within 20-60 days, while the Pecorino Sardo Maturo needs to mature for at least two months before it can be released, but can continue ripening in its confines for over a year. At the moment of the cheese’s release, whether in Dolce or Maturo form, it is carefully tested and, if meeting the requirements of the specification, is then marked with an indelible food ink stamp that contains the initials of the designation in capital letters, i.e. PS D.O.P. along with the identification code of the cheese maker. When the cheese is ready to be sold on the market, an additional verification of compliance is conducted, followed by the affixation of the label, on which the designation is radially arranged. The original visual identification of the cheese wheels is supplemented by the addition of an adhesive mark with an alphanumeric code issued by the Consortium of Protection that univocally identifies each wheel of cheese: a green mark stands for Pecorino Sardo Dolce, a blue mark for Pecorino Sardo Maturo.

 
Consortium of Protection and Certification Body

Pecorino Sardo was certified with the Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) by the European Union in 1996. As of July 2, 1996, the quality of Pecorino Sardo is officially guaranteed by the Consortium of Protection, which currently includes private and cooperative dairy industries operating in Sardinia. On December 11, 2002, the Consortium was officially recognized as the only body representing Pecorino Sardo’s P.D.O. status and the Ministry of Agriculture officially entrusted it with the task of protecting, promoting and enhancing the P.D.O. status, and monitoring any abuse, fraud and counterfeiting on the market. This delegation is renewed every three years. The Certification Body operates alongside the Consortium of Protection. The overall supply chain of Pecorino Sardo P.D.O., from the farmers to the packagers/cutters, is subject to the supervision of an independent third party, authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture. This body is responsible for issuing the certificate of compliance of the P.D.O. to the product specification. Its duties involve the oversight and monitoring of each and every phase of the production process by performing sampling and periodical inspection of the products.

Pecorino Sardo was certified with the Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) by the European Union in 1996. As of July 2, 1996, the quality of Pecorino Sardo is officially guaranteed by the Consortium of Protection, which currently includes private and cooperative dairy industries operating in Sardinia. On December 11, 2002, the Consortium was officially recognized as the only body representing Pecorino Sardo’s P.D.O. status and the Ministry of Agriculture officially entrusted it with the task of protecting, promoting and enhancing the P.D.O. status, and monitoring any abuse, fraud and counterfeiting on the market. This delegation is renewed every three years. The Certification Body operates alongside the Consortium of Protection. The overall supply chain of Pecorino Sardo P.D.O., from the farmers to the packagers/cutters, is subject to the supervision of an independent third party, authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture. This body is responsible for issuing the certificate of compliance of the P.D.O. to the product specification. Its duties involve the oversight and monitoring of each and every phase of the production process by performing sampling and periodical inspection of the products.

 
In the kitchen
In the kitchen

While both Pecorino Sardo P.D.O. Dolce and Maturo can be considered table cheeses, the Maturo variety is also excellent when in grated form and is widely used to enrich pasta and rice dishes. Included often in the preparation of many traditional recipes, both Sardinian and Italian, Pecorino Sardo is an important ingredient that characterizes and personalizes the dish it accompanies in a special way. The Dolce variety pairs well with a dry white wine, smooth and full-bodied like Vermentino, while the Maturo, with its intense and sharp taste, pairs well with a red wine, smooth and medium-bodied like Cannonau or Brunello di Montalcino.

 
 
Did you know?

The use of selected autochthonous lactic acid ferments naturally present in Sardinian sheep’s milk, accelerates the removal of unwanted microorganisms and is decisive in characterizing the organoleptic and sensory properties typical of Pecorino Sardo D.O.P. and therefore its unmistakable taste; aromatic and delicate for the Dolce product, strong and slightly spicy for the Maturo product.

(Source: International Journal of Dairy Tecnology: “ Suitability of selected autochthonous lactic acid bacteria cultures for Pecorino Sardo Dolce cheese manufacturing: influence on microbial composition, nutritional value and sensory attributes” G N. P Mangia, M.A Murgia, G. Garau, F. Fancello and P.Deiana – Department of Agriculture, University of Sassari, November 2013 – “ “Employment of autochthonous microflora in Pecorino Sardo cheese manufacturing and evolution of physicochemical parameters during ripening” M.A. Madrau, N.P. Mangia, M.A. Murgia, M.G. Sanna, G. Garau, L. Leccis, M. Caredda, P. Deiana_ Department of Agro-Environmental Sciences and Agri-Food Biotechnologies, Agricultural Microbiology Section, University of Sassari, August 2005)

The use of selected autochthonous lactic acid ferments naturally present in Sardinian sheep’s milk, accelerates the removal of unwanted microorganisms and is decisive in characterizing the organoleptic and sensory properties typical of Pecorino Sardo D.O.P. and therefore its unmistakable taste; aromatic and delicate for the Dolce product, strong and slightly spicy for the Maturo product.

(Source: International Journal of Dairy Tecnology: “ Suitability of selected autochthonous lactic acid bacteria cultures for Pecorino Sardo Dolce cheese manufacturing: influence on microbial composition, nutritional value and sensory attributes” G N. P Mangia, M.A Murgia, G. Garau, F. Fancello and P.Deiana – Department of Agriculture, University of Sassari, November 2013 – “ “Employment of autochthonous microflora in Pecorino Sardo cheese manufacturing and evolution of physicochemical parameters during ripening” M.A. Madrau, N.P. Mangia, M.A. Murgia, M.G. Sanna, G. Garau, L. Leccis, M. Caredda, P. Deiana_ Department of Agro-Environmental Sciences and Agri-Food Biotechnologies, Agricultural Microbiology Section, University of Sassari, August 2005)