According to Corsican legend, there was once an ogre, the “Orcu”, who lived in the mountains and terrorized villagers. One day, a young shepherd fashioned a trap—a giant leather boot filled with a sticky substance—which he left outside the Orcu’s cave. Sure enough, the ogre got stuck in the boot, and in his struggle to escape, toppled over. As the shepherds rushed at him to attack, he offered them a secret in exchange for his life: a recipe for a cheese he invented, which he called Brocciu.
Since then, Brocciu has played an integral role in Corsican life and cuisine. “Who has not tasted it, does not know the island,” wrote Bergerat in the late 19th century. Today it is the only Corsican cheese with French AOC status.
Brocciu is a soft, fresh cheese made from sheep's or goat's milk whey. As the whey heats up, some fresh milk is added (up to 25% volume can be fresh milk, according to AOC regulations). When the whey and milk reach about 170 degrees farenheit, the curds (known locally as ‘Fattoghje casgiaghe’), begin floating to the top. The cheesemaker scoops curds out and allows them to drain in a small basket mold.
The soft cheese can be consumed a few hours after cooling and draining, or it can be refined over several weeks. Once the cheese has aged for 21 days, it becomes classified as “Brocciu Passu.” The ideal consumption period is from November to June. About 500 tons of Brocciu are produced in Corsica each year.
Brocciu is similar to ricotta, although with a slightly stronger tang. It is creamy, smooth, fragile and a bit sweet.
Pairings: Brocciu is usually eaten after a meal, perhaps alongside chestnut liquer and sugar, or with fig jam or coffee. It is also great for cooking and is often added to omelets alongside mint, in stuffed zucchini or tomatoes, in beignets, or in a custard baked with lemon zest (fiadone).