Pecorino cheese traditionally comes in a number of varieties, including Pecorino di Filiano, Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Sardo, Pecorino Siciliano and Pecorino Toscano.
All Pecorinos are made from ewes’ milk and the name is derived from the Italian word for sheep: ‘pecora’. Pecorinos are served at the end of a meal, or may be grated over pasta as an alternative to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
As with Stilton cheese, Pecorino has protected status under European Union law. Its Protected Destination of Origin (PDO) is known as Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP) in Italian. Cheese production of Pecorino is limited to Sardinia (Pecorino Sardo), some parts of Lazio and the Tuscan Provinces of Grosseto and Siena (Pecorino Toscana).
Maturity plays a major role in why the flavour and texture of one Pecorino is different from another. Stagionato, is a term commonly used to describe an aged Pecorino. It translates as “seasoned” and usually describes a cheese over six months old, with a rich and full flavour and firm, crumbly texture.
Semi-stagionato Pecorino is usually around three to four months old and more buttery and fresher in taste. Dolce or fresco describes any young cheese of around two months old, with a mild, creamy taste and softer texture.
A Fiorini Family History
The Fiorini family have been shepherds in Tuscany for centuries. During winter, they guided sheep from the valley of Casentino to the greener pastures of Maremma, the coastal region where the family is now situated. The availability of lush local vegetation for the ewes influenced the family’s settlement in the village of Roccalbeng, approximately 25km inland, towards the end of the 18th Century. They acquired the land and additional flocks shortly after, before establishing a dairy in the village during 1957.
Their approach to cheese making has always been built on direct experience. To this day, they continue to have a genuine, humble, family-orientated and artisan approach, disregarding industrial techniques in favour of traditional methods. The milk for their cheeses only comes from shepherds that they regard as family. In the late 80’s, the family moved to the edge of the village. Larger maturation stores were then built, which utilise the naturally cool, rocky spaces into which the family house leans.
Even now, the family’s ethos is to use only the finest raw ingredients to create a superior product that also remains quintessentially Italian. Milk is carefully selected for each of the styles of cheese based on the pasture on which the animals have been grazing and the make-up of the milk solids. The choice of starter and rennet being equally important.
The cheeses are seasoned and ripened in perfect conditions, where the ideal microclimate and natural moulds help develop the traditional rind and the scent of the Maremma. Each cheese is turned and brushed by hand throughout (never by machine). It is this attention to detail that separates the Fiorini family’s dairy from the plethora of other Pecorino producers.
The history of Marzolino d’Eturia can be traced all the way back to the first century in the writings of Pliny the Elder. In 1985, Duilio Fiorino, the senior member of the family creamery and fondly referred to as “The Founder”, was a key figure in safeguarding the Tuscan cheese. Marzolino d’Etruria is made in the style of a Pecorino Dolce (Sweet) and shaped by the masterful hand of the cheese-maker.
The flavour is light and lactic with hints of cooked butter, but the low amount of acidity make it incredibly easy to eat. The soft texture provides a lovely mouth-feel with a pronounced, yoghurt-like aftertaste. Delightfully subtle and supple, this is a cheese-pleaser at any dinner party especially when eaten with Quince Toast for Cheese, Acacia Honey with White Truffle and Charcoal Crackers.
Pecorino di Bartarello
The Pecorino di Bartarello is a traditional “Pecorino Tuscano”, one of the world’s great cheeses. The finest milk is carefully selected for the cheese, which perfectly captures, within the curd, the taste of the Maremma terroir. Like the Marzolino, the flavour is relatively light and delicate, however it has developed a slight ‘farmyard’ aroma and a gentle, herbaceous spice through the three months of aging.
The dairy and lactic flavours are at the forefront, but the more complex flavours, which have risen from the longer maturation process, sit gently on the palate after the freshness dissipates. Pecorino di Bartarello takes its name from the farm where the ewes graze, adjacent to the Albegna river and it is a celebration of the rich family history of dairy farming.
Why not try this Pecorino with a glass of Moscato Grape Nectar and some Olive Oil Crackers or Charcoal Crackers?
Riserva del Fondatore
Angela is the daughter of Duilio Fiorino and, with the help of husband Simone, she now runs the creamery in Maremma. Together they created Riserva del Fondatore as a way of thanking Duilio for entrusting them with the creamery. It has since become the creamery’s star-performing cheese because it uses highest quality milk and is matured for at least one year in the family’s finest caves.
The most striking aspect of this cheese is its size. The 20kg wheel dwarfs the standard 2kg wheels and creates a blueprint for longer maturation. The cheese holds more weight, resulting in less moisture loss and, ultimately, a creamier texture with powerful flavours, something sought after here in the UK. The flavour is lovely and fruity, similar to ripe apricots, developing into something much more savoury and lasting. Riserva del Fondatore is ideal with Hazelnut Oaten Biscuits, Olive Oil Crackers and Fig Fruit for Cheese.
We are not surprised that it picked up “Best Pecorino” at the World Cheese Awards 2015 from hundreds of entrants.