Fresa is a sheep’s milk cheese typical of Ittiri, an ancient town in Coros, which is a union of municipalities in the Logudoro traditional region, between Sassari and Alghero (located in the north west of Sardinia). The historic centre is located on a plateau 450 meters metres above sea level which is surrounded by rocky valleys, mountain ranges (the highest being Mount Torru), streams and lakes. Throughout the territory there are numerous nuraghe and domus de janas, the pre-Nuragic tombs which are carved into the rocks, which in the local dialect are known as coroneddo. It is a pastoral agricultural area, known for its vegetable crops (in particular the thorny artichoke), vineyards, olive groves and sheep farms.
In Ittiri, alongside the more famous Sardinian raw sheep’s milk cheeses, fresa is also produced, its name is derived from the Latin word “fresus”, meaning flattened. It is a unique fresh pecorino due to it being pressed. It has a flattened cylindrical shape, with a height of a few centimetres and a diameter of about 20 centimetres. The curd has small holes, is soft and white, and is characterised by notes of yoghurt and Mediterranean scrub, it is covered in a light straw coloured crust that develops following a short maturation period of about 20 days.
The fresa was usually produced in the summer when it was more difficult to produce aged pecorino, because the cheeses often developed bulges due to the high temperatures. The milk was transformed into cheese by the shepherd, who was usually in the countryside, and then the women of the house took care of the curd: to control the typical bulges which would form, they pressed it with boulders and bricks.
Today fresa is produced during the entire lactation period of the animals… Raw milk from two sessions of milking is processed, by being brought to 36-38°C and then having rennet added. Eventually it is possible to mix in the fermented whey: a culture of native bacteria obtained in house with the whey taken from the cheese making process of the previous days. After about 30 minutes the curd is broken into granules that are not too fine. The curd is then extracted from the whey and wrapped in cotton sheets. The mass of curd is then placed under a press for 5-6 hours, salted in brine for about another 12 hours and then matured on wooden boards. They are turned over at least twice a day and dried off from the whey which seeps out over time.
Traditionally, fresa is eaten fresh, accompanied by bread and food from the garden. It lends itself to various gastronomic uses, but it can also be simply heated in a pan.
The Ittiri Fresa cheese is produced from February to the beginning of August
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 Ittiri Fresa cheese.
The Presidium was created to safeguard one of the most particular fresh sheep cheeses in existence. Today it is not very well known outside of its local area, and it is produced by a small number of shepherds who transform their own whole and raw sheep's milk using traditional methods, without adding selected yeasts and enzymes. Slow Food wants to support the work of these producers who resist competition every day from medium and large dairies that pasteurise milk and offer consumers pecorino cheese at lower prices.
The Presidium will work to involve new shepherds, who will have to comply with the production guidelines: the processing technique used must be traditional, the animals must be bred in a semi-wild environment and fed based on what is available through grazing, while using feed stored in silos and feed containing GMOs are both prohibited.
Municipality of Ittiri and neighbouring municipalities (Province of Sassari).
Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali
Il Presidio della Fresa degli Ittiri 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
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Tel. +39 340 2998403