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Romano Pecorino, or Pecorino Romano, is imported from Southern Italy. It is salty and firm and is an excellent grating cheese, and also works well as an ingredient because it doesn’t melt into strings when it’s cooked. In its milder renditions it’s also a nice addition to a cheese platter or with fruit, especially pears, while a chunk with a piece of crusty bread and a glass of red wine is a fine snack. The flavor of Romano Pecorino is quite distinctive, and it’s an important ingredient in many south Italian dishes. Romano Pecorino is one of our newer imports that we have been adding to our selection and will continue to add in the future. Some of our other imported cheeses include: Canadian Cheddar, Chevre, Danish Bleu Cheese, Gouda, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Manchego, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Provalone, and Raclette.
History of Romano Pecorino
Romano doesn’t refer to Rome the city, but to the Romans, who were already making Romano Pecorino 2000 years ago; Lucio Moderato Columella, who wrote De Re Rustica, says, “the milk is usually curdled with lamb or kid rennet, though one can use wild thistle blossoms, càrtame, or fig sap. The milk bucket, when it is filled, must be kept warm, though it mustn’t be set by the fire, as some would, nor must it be set too far from it, and as soon as the curds form they must be transferred to baskets or molds:
Indeed, it’s essential that the whey be drained off and separated from the solid matter immediately. It is for this reason that the farmers don’t wait for the whey to drain away a drop at a time, but put a weight on the cheese as soon as it has firmed up, thus driving out the rest of the whey. When the cheese is removed from the baskets or molds, it must be placed in a cool dark place lest it spoil, on perfectly clean boards, covered with salt to draw out its acidic fluids.”
Though modern cheese makers use heaters rather than the fireplace, and use calibrated molds rather than baskets, the basic process remains the same. The technique is very distinctive and imparts a characteristic salty sharpness to the cheese. Of course cheese comes from milk, and it’s important too; Romano Pecorino isn’t simply made from sheep’s milk, but from the milk of sheep that have grazed pastures with specific combinations of grasses that impart specific flavors to their milk.
Those who left Southern Italy to seek better fortune abroad during the last decades of the 1800s and the early 1900s were forced to leave almost everything behind, but not their tastes: As soon as they settled they began to cook, and one of the ingredients they needed most was Romano Pecorino. There was no way to make it locally (different climate and forage means a different cheese, even if the production technique is the same), but Romano Pecorino kept very well and could be imported from Southern Tuscany and Sardegna. Currently about 20,000 tons of Romano Pecorino are exported every year, 90% of which to North America.
Wine Pairing for Romano Pecorino
It pairs well with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, Merlot, and Zinfandel. For those who prefer beer over wine, Romano Pecorino combines well with Ciders and Fruit Beers.