As many as 300 different forage plants have been recorded in the pastures of the Gran Sasso, compared to 20 or 30 in Alpine meadows. This exceptional diversity and the dry climate at higher altitudes have created the ideal conditions for sheep farming. Over the centuries, flocks have been brought here seasonally from other regions, from the Tavoliere in Puglia, the Agro Romano, the Maremma and the Terra di Lavoro around Caserta. The culture of the seasonal migration of livestock (transhumance) and the related cheese production are an integral part of the history of all of Abruzzo, but it is the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park that offers the ultimate grazing destination. Campo Imperatore is a 19-kilometer-long plateau located at 1,800 meters above sea level, where thousands and thousands of sheep are still brought every May. This was once the destination of the horizontal transhumance, practiced for at least two millennia, which used wide grassy paths known as tratturi to bring the sheep up to the pastures. One of the most important tracks left from San Pio delle Camere and reached as far as Foggia, where the Dogana della Mena delle Pecore was located, the tollhouse for the payment of taxes for pasturing. It took at least 15 days to transfer the sheep the whole distance. But a vertical transhumance also exists, practiced by local herders, who take their animals to different altitudes within the park. In this way they can guarantee outdoor grazing for their sheep for seven to nine months every year. A good part of Campo Imperatore lies within the municipality of Castel del Monte, home to a traditional cheese of exceptional quality. The pure sheep’s milk comes mostly from the Sopravvissane or Gentili di Puglia breeds. Each cheesemaker follows their own technique to make the cheese, though as a general rule the milk is filtered, heated to 35° to 40°C for 15 to 25 minutes and then curdled with a natural rennet obtained from lambs’ stomachs. The curd is then broken up to the size of corn kernels, cooked at 40° to 45°C for around 15 minutes (though not by all cheesemakers), transferred to fiscelle (basket molds) and pressed to release any residual whey. After salting, the forms are arranged on wooden boards in cool, airy rooms known as casere. The aging lasts anywhere from two months to a year, during which time the cheeses are regularly rubbed with olive oil to avoid them drying out. The hard, aged cheeses can vary in weight (from half a kilo to two and a half kilos) and have a pronounced, piquant flavor. The aged Canestrato is good eaten sliced, but also excellent grated.
Canestrato is produced year-round. The Presidium protocol stipulates a minimum maturing time of 2 months for 1-2 kg forms, 8 months for the 5 kg forms and 15 months for the traditional 15 kg forms.
Pastures on the southern slopes of Gran Sasso, L’Aquila Province
Presidium supported by
Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park
Strada Provinciale, 1
Tel. +39 0862 930345 - 333 2548445
Castel del Monte (Aq)
Via San Donato, 56
Tel. +39 333 5814030
Castel del Monte (Aq)
Piazzale del Lago, 10
tel. +39 333 4107973
I produttori del Presidio lavorano il latte dei propri ovini e dei seguenti allevatori
Giulio Mucciante, Renato Mucciante, Rosetta Germano, Gianluca Marinacci,
Alessandro Pelini, Giulio Petronio, Azienda Pilota per le Biodiversità di Castel del Monte, Leonardo Tartaro, Damiani Ovidio, Nino Sebastiani di Tempera, Amedeo Tartaro di San Pio delle Camere, Ruggero Damiani, Antonio Damiani, Carmelinda Iagnemma di Barisciano, Annarita Giuliani di Ofena, Mario Antonacci di Calascio