Alta Baronia is a sparsely populated area in the north eastern part of Sardinia, it is located in the regional park of the Oasis of Tepilora, one of the most densely vegetated areas of the island. It extends for over one hundred thousand hectares, starting from 300 meters above sea level, in a semi mountainous territory dominated by the limestone massif of Monte Albo, whose maximum height reaches 1000 meters. But Alta Baronia is also characterized by expanses of pastures where mastic trees and strawberry trees grow. They are typical of the Mediterranean scrub and the local sheep of the area which are used to produce Sardinian pecorino with a semi-cooked curd love to eat them.
This area is particularly suited for pastoral agriculture, due to the landscape of the area, until the beginning of the last century goats were mainly raised on this pasture, the milk was used to produce cheeses that were then bartered for barley and wheat, which was used to pay the rent on the land. Shepherds only began to introduce sheep into their flock later on, as they produced more milk and therefore more cheese. In the fifties and sixties two small dairies were born in Alta Baronia, which collected and resold the cheese forms produced by shepherds, unfortunately however, they were soon forced to close. This was due to the upper hand of medium and large industrial dairies, which still pasteurise milk for the production of the most common pecorino cheeses found especially on supermarket shelves.
The Alta Baronia pecorino, on the other hand, is a raw milk cheese, cylindrical in shape, with a diameter of 25-40 centimetres and a weight ranging from 3 to 10 kilograms. The curd has a straw colour, is slightly greasy and solid or, in cheeses which have been matured for longer, can have a flakier consistency. It stands out for its small holes and hazelnut coloured crust, which is hard and has slight scratches left by the moulds.
It is produced with full cream sheep’s milk, which comes from a maximum of two sessions of milking. The milk is eventually heated, and calf rennet is added. When the curd is ready, it is broken into small granules, semi-cooked bringing it to 42°C and formed into shape. The whey is released by working the curd by hand. The cheese is then salted. During the maturation phase the wheels are periodically turned over, cleaned with cloths and, after about 4 months, they are coated with locally produced extra virgin olive oil.
The Alta Baronia pecorino is ready after two months but can also be aged for longer. Its scent is reminiscent of the Mediterranean scrub and its flavour is persistent, sweet and has a balanced spiciness. It is consumed as a table cheese or grated to flavour pastas and soups.
The Alta Baronia pecorino is produced from December to the end of June. The minimum maturation time required by the Presidium’s production guidelines is two months.
Slow Food has always been active in giving a future to Sardinian sheep farming and it does so by creating new Presidiums for cheeses that are linked to the territory and that are in danger of disappearing, such as the Alta Baronia Pecorino.
The knowledge related to the production of this cheese is safeguarded by very few families, who care for the well-being and nutrition of their animals (based on grazing), and who transform the raw milk without the addition of extra yeasts or enzymes.
Slow Food's goal is to restore full dignity to pastoralism, to promote an extraordinary cheese and to involve new producers in the project, who must abide by and follow the Presidium's production guidelines, to prevent the loss of this pecorino cheese.
Alta Baronia, Province of Nuoro
Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali
Il Presidio del Pecorino dell’Alta Baronia è finanziato dal Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali, Direzione Generale del Terzo Settore e della Responsabilità Sociale delle Imprese – avviso n° 1/2018 “Slow Food in azione: le comunità protagoniste del cambiamento”, ai sensi dell’articolo 72 del codice del Terzo Settore, di cui al decreto legislativo n 117/2017
di Gianni Mele
località Ena Torta Sant'Anna
Tel. +39 339 4068049
Tel. 339 4068049