Calabrian matured pecorino cheeses are referred to as stagionato (“seasoned” or “aged” ), which are harder but still crumbly in texture and have decidedly buttery and nutty flavours. There are anyway two other types of semi-stagionato and fresco, which have a softer texture and milder cream and milk tastes. Further, it is usual in Calabria, also Pecorino Pepato (literally, “peppered Pecorino”), to which red pepper corns are added. Today many other additions are made, for example walnuts or rocket or tiny pieces of white or black truffle.
But a typical example of sweet or seasoned Calabrian Pecorino is the cheese of Mount Poro, another is the Crotonese Pecorino cheese; in both cases, pure sheep cheese with a 4 month seasoning and a spicy flavour.
Generally, of the six main varieties of Pecorino, all of which have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status under European Union law, Pecorino Calabrese (“Monte poro” and “Crotonese”) is probably the less known outside Italy.
It is common that important export markets mostly deal with Pecorino produced on the island of Sardinia, while are less known the other mature PDO cheeses, like:
Pecorino Siciliano (or Picurinu Sicilianu in Sicilian) from Sicily,
Pecorino di Filiano from Basilicata
Pecorino Crotonese (from Crotone in Calabria).
Instead, in many Italian recipes you can find such cheese and a good Pecorino Stagionato. It is often the finish of a meal, served with pears and walnuts or drizzled with strong chestnut honey. Pecorino is also often used to finish pasta dishes.
From the scents of the green pastures that surround the magnificent village of Morano Calabro a cheese from the ancient tradition is born, loved by nobles and peasants. It is the white and soft, and contains aromas and flavors of the ferns on which it is laid. Further, it is fat, fresh and characterized by an outer surface devoid of white porcelain crust, of the same shade as the pasta which is also soft, smooth and moist. The taste is delicate and pleasantly aromatic thanks to the hints given by fern leaves.
This cheese is called “felciata” of Morano, is a cheese of mostly goat’s (and a little sheep’s) milk, made in the summer, and is, indeed, called “felciata”, because takes its name from the custom of laying it on ferns.
Precisely, after heating and coagulating of the milk, the cheese, so obtained, is traditionally set in a wooden bucket filled with ferns (in Italian the ferns are called “felci”, this explains the name of the cheese, “felciata”).
Once produced, this wonderful cheese is best eaten fresh, while still warm.
Nowadays, the denomination
“Felciata” is one of the Calabrian cheeses included in the list of Traditional
Agri-food Products (TAP, but in Italian the acronym is “PAT”) of the Ministry
of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.
Called also “a filicèta” in the dialect of Morano Calabro, the “felciata” takes its name, as said before, from the fern leaves in which it is wrapped, taking on the characteristic aromas that distinguish them.
That of the ferns of Morano Calabro
is an ancient recipe closely linked to the Calabrian pastoral tradition,
probably handed down from father to son.
Soft and creamy, it was particularly
appreciated by the noble families who consumed it regularly and was used as a
bargaining chip by local artisans, who offered the producers the mulberry
buckets used for its production, in exchange for some of the delicious cheese.
Such were (and are) its whiteness, its delicacy and its freshness, that the felciata, as reported in an ancient Calabrian text, was often called “Pane degli Angeli”.
Today, to safeguard and promote its
production and avoid its disappearance, the Slow Food Foundation has chosen to
protect the delicious Calabrian cheese by including it in its Arca del Gusto
The narrow streets of Morano and the
houses that seem to cling to each other and, in turn, anchored to the soft
sides of a hill surrounded by woods and mountains, make it one of the most
picturesque villages in all of Calabria. It is no coincidence that the town has
been included in the circuit of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
From the first glance, when
approaching the historic center you can see the surprising vernacular
architecture and its poor-style buildings that embrace, almost melting into
each other, climbing up to the castle that dominates them from above.
At the end of the walking, from the castle, dominating the panorama, you can finally realize why this little stone jewel is considered so charming.
The felciata is generally produced
in the late spring and summer season during the months between May and
September. In this period, in fact, the lush mountain pastures of the Pollino
massif give the milk the most pleasant and intense aromas, flavors and smells.
Today it is not easy to find it in Calabrian dairies but it is worth looking
for it to taste its delicacy. Who is in Morano Calbro can buy it at the local
Caseficio, which produces only organic cheeses.
The traditional Recipe of Felciata
in Morano Calabro requests goat’s milk, coming from animals that are rigorously
grazed and added with a very small percentage of sheep’s milk. Then , the milk
is filtered with ferns and then heated in the appropriate copper boilers at a
temperature of about 34 ° C.
Then, it is added goat or lamb rennet produced on the farm. While waiting for complete coagulation, the best sprigs of ferns are arranged by choosing those of a certain consistency from the apical part of the plant. After 30-45 minutes, the curd is picked with the coachman (a typical maple wood tool) and transferred to mulberry-wood buckets, making sure to form homogeneous layers of curd and ferns. Now glass, ceramic or terracotta containers are also used.
To appreciate every taste and
olfactory note of this cheese it is advisable to eat the “felciata”
on the same day it is produced, even when it is still hot. It can be consumed
alone or flavored with acacia honey. It goes nicely with dried fruit, but it is
also delicious when drizzled with just a little oil. It goes well with dry and
light white wines.