Around the Erei mountains and the Dittaino Valley, in the Sicilian province of Enna, the springs are rainy and the summers humid. The rich variety of plants (sulla, vetch, rosemary, wild fennel and many others typical of the Mediterranean maquis) growing between 400 and 800 meters above sea level makes this one of the parts of the island with the highest number of sheep farms. The native Sicilian sheep breeds raised in these hills include Comisana, Pinzirita and Valle del Belice.
Since ancient times, their milk has been flavored with locally grown saffron and turned into Piacentinu, a sheep’s milk cheese, named after the dialect word for “which is liked.” Over the centuries, different anecdotes have attached themselves to the cheese. According to legend, in the 11th century, Ruggero I, Count of Altavilla, cured his wife Adelasia’s depression by asking local cheesemakers to add a pinch of saffron to their sheep’s cheese.
Produced in nine municipalities in the province of Enna, the cheese has a compact texture and a unique appearance. The use of saffron gives the cheese a distinctive yellow color, and the paste is studded with whole black peppercorns, which are soaked in hot water the evening before the cheese is made. The processing technique, which involves the addition of hot water to the curd and a careful use of salt, make this one of Sicily’s least “aggressive” cheeses, with a more “European” style than many others from the island.
After being aged for around 60 days, Enna Piacentinu develops a delicate fragrance and aromatic flavor, with a gentle sweetness from the saffron.
Enna Piacentinu is available throughout the year.