The word for sheep in Italian is pecora - hence the name Pecorino. There are many different types of Pecorino produced, particularly throughout southern and central Italy where the landscape lends itself to dairy sheep production.
Although production varies from producer to producer, the characteristics of Pecorino Toscano are a firm texture, intense flavor and a mildly peppery finish. Flavors become more savory and intense with age, while retaining an underlying sweetness and mellow quality.
Pecorino Toscano was awarded DOC status in 1986 and DOP status in 1996, uniting many local cheeses of similar production and appearance under one umbrella for quality control and marketing purposes.
Production of Pecorino Toscano can be from either raw or pasteurized milk, but it is always made with milk from animals who graze or are fed hay or dried grasses. No silage is permitted. Animal rennet is used to coagulate the milk (which takes 20-25 minutes) at a temperature of between 91.4°F and 100.4°F. Curds are cut to about the size of a pea and re-heated to expel more whey before being put into forms and brined for about 12 hours. Cheeses are then matured in a cellar for between three and six months, depending on the producer.
Pecorino Toscano is sturdy and nutty with a hint of salt and underlying savory and sweet flavors that intensify with age.