Sicilian Cheese: Nature and Tradition       italian flag
cow and lamb
palazzo adriano

This cheese, its name’s literal translation being cheese on horseback, is widely recognized as the symbol of this part of the
Sicilian island and a synonym for genuineness. The milk comes from cows that graze in the fields of the
iblea zone, collected
and treated in small, historical and characteristic
masserie, or farms, out of respect for the ancient traditions and
prescriptions that have been handed down from generations. The resulting cheese is a true delicacy and delight for more
discriminating palates.

Historical Notes
The Caciocavallo Ragusano method is one of the oldest traditions for cheesemaking in Sicily. The
Cascavaddu (in Sicilian)
name can be translated as
Cheese astride, and it is is believed that the name originates from the old fashioned drying
process by which it is made. A cheese with an intense but delicate flavor, with lasting creaminess and detail, Caciocavallo
has been exported beyond the borders of the Reign of the two Sicilies
since XIV the century. Mention of the commerce of
the Caciocavallo Ragusano can be found in history books: the way Carmelo Trasselli in 1515 tells it,
Ferdinand the Catholic
and Carl V
crammed as much of the aged Ragusano onto their ships as they could, and so it was exported to the greater
region of the Mediterranean and transported on the wagons toward the inns as well as the homes of the noble and the
notables of the era.

caciocavallo Areas of production
 Ragusa and the greater Province of Ragusa; Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Rosolini in the
 Province of Siracusa.

Spun paste or pasta filata.

 Caciocavallo can be referred to as:
 Fresh within two months from the production;
 Semi-aged up to six months from production;
 Aged beyond six months.

 The traditional form is a parallelogram with dulled angles. The rind is smooth and
 thin but compact, yellow or golden in color, the intensity of color depending upon its
age. The
cappatura, or covering, is achieved with olive oil. The flavor is pleasant and delicate, sweet and slightly tangy in
the first months, tending to grow spicier with age. Caciocavallos vary in weight from 10 Kg to 16 Kg.

Race or species: cow. Cows feed on grassy natural pastures of the Iblei- rich plateaus of wild Mediterranean fields- as well
as on vegetables in their stable.
Raw materials: fresh raw cow’s milk and lamb rennet.

cowsTools used
The tools for working the cheese are made of wood and include:
  • a stick with a crank or wheel;
  • a tinned vat with sieve for spinning;
  • wood tablets, the so-called cugni
  • tablets for the branding, the so-called marchiu;
  • hung container of wood rennet, the so-called pisaquagghiu;
  • clay container for the conservation of the rennet, the so-called quagghialoru;
  • container in wood for the mold preparation of cheeses, the so-called mastredda;
  • directed fire to firewood or gas,
  • concrete bathtubs for the pickling brine.
Production Techniques
The milk of one or two milking it is made to coagulate in a vat of wood to 34° C with the rennet. The obtained paste, the
curd, is route with the rotula and made clear in fiscelle on a board of wood, after two hours comes cooked to 80°C for 105
minutes. The curd, passed the just time, is extracted with the hands and put on the mastredda to rest for a day. The
successive day the curd is cut to slices and mail in the
staccio for the spinning that happens with the aid of the crank and
worked warm water by hand. The cheese paste of spherical form is wise mail from the
casaro in mastredda of wood thus
taking the typical form to parallelepipedo of the caciocavallo. The day after happens the salt out for immersion in the
pickling brine saturates for 24 hours approximately, according to the weight and of the form.

Aging process
Cheese is conserved in the so-called
maizzè, fresh and well-ventilated spaces, such as natural wine cellars and caves
where they are hung
a cavallo, or over wooden beams, with ropes of natural fibers called liama, cannu or zammarru.


sicilian pecorino This cheese is surely one of the oldest and most appreciated of Italian cheeses. Rich in
 precious nourishing elements, it is a flavorful and easily digestible cheese.

 The Sicilian Pecorino has been produced on this island since its first native inhabitants
 dedicated themselves to the breeding of sheep and took advantage of the luscious green
 pastures of the hills and valleys. Following the arrival of the ancient Greeks, who
 conquered the island and annexed it in the
Magna Grecia, local cheese production endured
 the influence of techniques imported by the great civilization. The ancient Greeks were
 fascinated by Sicily’s natural bounty and its impressive yields to such a point that they
 referred to the island as the gift of the gods.
Aristophanes, philosopher and writer of the IV
 the century BC, cites Sicialian Pecorino in his work, likewise did
Plato extoled the virtues of
 Sicilian sheep’s milk cheese. Similarly, the ancient Romans, who arrived several centuries
 later, continued the dairy tradition, favoring the production and the commerce of Sicilian
 cheeses, as they were optimal also for the quality of their conservation, which was
 necessary for feeding their troops. They also used the cheese in trade. With the
 Normann domination
between the IX and the X centuries, Sicilian Pecorino landed at the
 tables of many noble families throughout Northern Europe.

Areas of production
Prizzi and Hadrian’s Palace in the Province of Palermo for optimal Pecorino Canestrato; Godrano, Corleone, S. Giuseppe
Jato, Alcamo and Castellamare del Golfo for the so-called
Pecorino Nostrano; Ragusa and the greater Province of Ragusa.

Hard cheese.

Pecorino Siciliano can be referred to as:
Fresh after 40 days of maturation and up to 2 months after
Semi-aged between 2 and 6 months;
Aged from 6 months to 2 years post-production.
Other denominations for this cheese include
canestrato (aged in a
basket) and
pepato (with added black pepper).

The characteristic form is cylindrical with either flat or slightly
concave faces. A thick outer rind leads to the superficial striations
left from the traditional wicker basket where the curd is set. The
flavor is sweet and delicate and tends toward slight tanginess
when fresh, its customary form when consumed as a table cheese;
The pepato variety is quite spicy. The weight of a Pecorino Siciliano can vary from 4 Kg to 15 Kg.

Race or species: sheeps’ milk. Sheep graze in grassy pastures of the plains and valleys, their diets are supplemented by
vegetables eaten in their stalls.
Raw materials: fresh raw whole sheeps’ milk, rennet of sheep.

A note about Canestrato
The Sicilian Canestrato is a true delicacy, it is considered among the most valuable cheeses in the Italian casearia, or dairy,
tradition. Canestrato cheese is traditionally produced by small specialty companies that breed specific types of sheep and
cows in order to confer to the cheese a particular and refined flavor. Historical documents bear witness to the fact that
Sicilian Canestrato was also used as a precious form of payment for tenancy contracts.