In the Val D’Orcia, Pecorino is the most widely produced and popular cheese. About 40% of all Italian cheeses come from the milk of sheep, but here, in the territories of the Crete and the Val D’Orcia, sheep’s milk cheese is the most commonly produced of all cheeses.
The taste and aroma of the local Pecorino reflect the beauty and tranquillity of the surrounding Val D’Orcia. This cheese is a laudable reflection of the landscape from which it comes. It is best when savored with a wine from perhaps Montalcino or Montepulciano. The combination of wine and cheese are nostalgic of the gentle countryside and picturesque villages that produce them.
The Pecorino is made by traditional methods and relies on several factors for its taste and texture. The sheeps are carefully bred, and fed on the abundant and aromatic grasses of the Val D’Orcia, creating a distinctively fragrant and delicious cheese. The milk is still very much strained in burlap and cooked in cauldrons handed down through generations of farm families. Another important factors in local Pecorino production is the air in which the cheeses are left to dry. These environs are carefully controlled by the local producers, who are justly proud of their product. In 20 days the fresh pecorino is edible after its production. Generally, the cheese is aged for four months.
Other specialty is seasoned pecorino, and this cheese is delightful with the red wines of the area. Below we have a fantastic wine suggestion for those of you interested in trying our recipe for Pecorino con Pere e Miele.
Pecorino con pere e miele
A festival “Pecorino con pere e miele” in Pienza is held in honor of the local Pecorino in early September. The hard round balls of Pecorino, often aged in a coating of ashes, are used in a ball game! Perhaps you can imagine this as you cut into a Pecorino from this area south of Siena, to make this delicious and refreshing dessert or snack on a cold winter evening.
1/4 – 1/2 cup of honey
1/2 pound of pecorino, sliced/shaved
2 or 3 ripe winter pears, cut into slices
Slowly warm the honey and drizzle over the slices of pear and pecorino. This is delicious when accompanied by walnuts. Enjoy!