It is an old, well-known, hard cheese. It has been present for centuries on most refined gourmets’ table. It is produced with whole sheep's milk, in such an area rich in extensive pastures as the land of Calabria which from Sila looks at Marchesato and the Ionian Sea. It is the Pecorino of Crotone, characterized by a white or pale yellow paste with a compact structure, an unmistakable flavour, a delicate and harmonious aroma in the fresh product, more savoury and relatively spicy in the ripe one.
At Pudano di Crotone, a corner of Italy able to evoke the bucolic images of the Magna Graecia, the Maiorano’s farm produces mainly the ‘Pecorino Canestrato’ cheese of Crotone. This is a particular version of the Pecorino cheese which owes its typicality to the use of milk produced by the ‘Gentile’ (Gentle) breed and kid rennet. All this is carried out in accordance with the natural balance of the product with the use of natural defence mechanisms (sulphur, copper, antagonist insects).
The distinguishing feature of this product is the typical ochre colour of its rind. Its shape keeps the imprinted signs of the basket in which the curd is placed, whose weight ranges between kg 2 and 7. Its flavour is sweet, full, but gently harmonious. Its paste is rather compact, its colour tends to pale yellow when fresh, yellow/ochre with few holes, from which tears of fat emerge, if seasoned. Its flavour is a real delicacy: it is extremely tasty, at times almost spicy, in the ripe cheeses, more gentle for less ripe cheeses. The difference is due to the ripening, which goes from a minimum of 4 months to 2 years.
An organic vocation
A strong link with the territory of Crotone allows Maiorano farm to be an expression of the excellence of food and wine in Calabria. Raffaele Maiorano, one of the owners, explains with pride: «As a Slow Food praesidium for the breeding of the 'Podolica' breed, autochthonous of Calabria, we produce cheese and oil, according to a rural tradition which dates back to the end of ‘800 and derives from rules dating back to the fifteenth century».
As a matter of fact, this company has a vocation for organic farming, using no chemicals or genetically modified seeds, respecting and breeding in a semi-natural state their flock of sheep, the ‘Gentile’ breed, which therefore is fed in uncontaminated pastures.
The company's flagship is «certainly the ‘Canestrato crotonese’, a particular version of pecorino cheese which owes its typicality to the use of milk of the Gentile breed and kid rennet», Raffaele Maiorano says. For ageing it, this product is 'cappato' (sprinkled) with extra virgin olive oil, which, by creating a yellowish rind, indicates the successful ripening.
This company produces different types of pecorino cheese, all in possession of HACCP and ISO 9001 certifications: the fresh Pecorino, whose paste remains soft and delicate, and whose seasoning arrives to thirty days. It is suitable for consumers who do not love too strong flavours, but however do not want to give up a taste of high quality pecorino cheese. The semi-hard Pecorino, which, with its ripening ranging from thirty to one hundred and eighty days, is placed in the wider sphere of appreciation.
The so called ‘Grotta’ (cave) is a delicacy, too. It is so called because the Pecorino cheese is transported in natural caves where it ripens for no less than six months. Here, thanks to the particular moisture in the gaps and natural moulds, a dark patina is created.
Finally, the hard Pecorino cheese is characterized by a strong, sure flavour, with a slightly spicy aftertaste, acquired thanks to more than one hundred and eighty days of ripening. It is recommended to consume it in touches, perhaps with honey or fruit mustard.
The 'Gran Riserva’, thanks to its long ripening, is produced in larger sizes than the normal ones, which reach Kg 5/7. It is persistent, pleasantly savoury and slightly spicy, with hints of hay, ripe herbs, and toasted hazelnuts. It is delicious if combined with the ‘Lonzino di Fico’, a cold cut characterized by the sweet taste of figs which accompany the rough and savoury paste of the Pecorino. Its combination with honey, too, is worth trying, for a more traditional pairing. It must be rigorously combined with a good local wine.
Maiorano adds: «In addition, with the same milk an excellent Ricotta cheese is produced: soft, delicate, obtained by the coagulation of the whey proteins of milk, that is, the liquid part of milk that separates from the curd during the curdling. Every morning it is delivered still warm in outlets and can be bought fresh, smoked with wood of olive tree and orange tree, which come from the organic olive groves and orange grove which our family owns».
In addition, with cow's milk cow’s Ricotta cheese is produced, with less fat than sheep’s Ricotta, as well as the ‘Provola’ cheese, an ancient product of Sila. Its shape is spherical, slightly flattened. It is delicious thanks to its aromatic flavour, it melts in the mouth, it is usually delicate and basically sweet when young, and becomes spicy at full ripening; it melts in cooking and can be eaten fresh in slices at the end of the meal.