Saturday, August 29, 2015

Piacentinu Cheese

Piacentinu is a sheep milk cheese made with added saffron and peppercorns in Enna, Sicily and has been for over 900 years. The cheese was initially made at the behest of the King of Sicily, Roger II, also known as Ruggero the Norman, who ruled from 1130 to 1154. He believed that saffron was an anti-depressant and wanted his wife to have it. So he asked the local cheese makers to develop it (I wonder if any cheese today is made with Prozac?). The cheese makers added peppercorns because it was a rare and valuable spice and this cheese was being made for the Sicilian court. 

The sheep around Enna feed on a leguminous weed known as veccia which gives the cheese part of its flavor. The saffron which is added also grows wild in the area. The saffron gives it its very yellowish gold color.
Piacentinu cheese.
To make the cheese, the sheep milk, along with goat rennet, is heated and then saffron is rinsed through the milk using sieves to extract the flavor and color. The curds are then cooked in whey. Whole black peppercorns are added and the cheese is dry salted, drained and left to mature for at least three months. 

One blogger described it as an "acquired taste," one he did not like at first. Saffron has an "alluring bitter edge" and "produces an exotic, bittersweet perfume."  Judy described it as dry and piney with a fairly strong taste of saffron. I found the texture dry and brittle, like very old aged cheese. I'm sure our cheese must have aged much longer than three months. It was lemony with a bit of a citrusy tang. A piece that includes a peppercorn provides the full peppercorn flavor, including the bite, and overwhelms the taste. It is a very fun, very unusual cheese, and I think the idea that it is an acquired taste makes sense.  


  1. Hmm Happy Cheese. I wonder if the Queen knew her husband was giving her mood-altering cheese.

  2. This is a great cheese for a small sample, but its taste is so unusual and complex that I can't imagine eating it in large quantities. Still, I like saffron, so I had to like this cheese.