Produced in the Abruzzo region of Italy, just East of Rome, Pecorino Brigantaccio is a raw milk, aged Pecorino, somewhat unusually coated in wheat bran.
Made by cheesemaker Nunzio Marcelli using milk sourced from the rare Sopravvissana sheep, the inspiration for this cheese came from a local Pecorino made in the 19th century.
During this time, there were a great number of bandits or brigands living in the hills around Abruzzo. They would regularly ambush the shepherds, stealing their cheeses into the bargain. In order to preserve the cheese, the bandits would stash them in clay pots, covering them in straw. They would then place a lighted candle inside the pot and by quickly sealing the entire thing with a goat skin, the oxygen would be burned up, effectively creating a vacuum.
In order to simulate this tradition, Marcelli first allows the cheese to age naturally in a maturing cave for between 3-4 months. At this point, cheeses are then vacuum sealed and matured for a further 12-18 months without oxygen. The lack of oxygen results in the cheese aging much more slowly and retaining moisture.
At the end of this period, the cheeses are placed in organic wheat bran for a few weeks. As well as replicating the remnants of burned straw in the original recipe, the bran draws out some of the moisture from the cheese and lends a “barnyard” quality to the finished wheels.
Pecorino Brigantaccio is matured for between one and two years before release.
The exterior rind is a mottled beige and deep red, rusty color, with marked indentations from the cheese forms. The interior texture is firm, dotted with “eyes” or holes and slightly chalky.
The cheese has a full mouth-feel. Flavors are very rich, balanced and savory with a slightly fruity tang. There are also notes of lanolin and oats with a pleasantly clean finish.