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
The Caciocavallo Ragusano method is one of the oldest traditions for
cheesemaking in Sicily. The Cascavaddu (in
Sicilian) name can be translated as Cheese
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.
Areas of production
Ragusa and the greater Province of Ragusa; Noto, Palazzolo Acreide,
Rosolini in the Province of Siracusa.
Type Spun paste or
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.
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
Composition 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
milk and lamb rennet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
History 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
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 Svevo- Normann
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
Ragusa and the greater Province of Ragusa.
Siciliano can be referred to as: Fresh after 40 days of maturation
and up to 2 months after production; 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).
Characteristics 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.
Composition 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
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.