This is a relatively new cheese here and elsewhere since it just received its IGP place of origin protection in 2010. Currently the cheese is made by Casa Madaio in the Basillica region of southern Italy but it really goes back to antiquity. Raising sheep in southern Italy seems to have always been an historical way of life for mountain towns like Moliterno, one of many villages known there for their cheese.
At 2,500 feet elevation Moliterno is one of several towns in the area that were important to Italians from the southern flatlands. It was a seasonal refuge for recreation for the flatlanders who could also utilize the cheese cellars there to store their perishables. When necessary the mountains also provided a natural defense against invaders, allowing ousted flatlanders to rest and regroup before any counterattack was in the offing. Shepherds also took advantage of the various elevations to graze their sheep during different seasons.
Moliterno cheese falls into the Pecarino family. It may be called Pecarino di Moliterno or Canestrato Pecarino, canestrato meaning the cheese is formed in baskets for the first twenty-four hours. For the ensuing months of aging the cheese is repeatedly rubbed with olive oil to maintain its moisture. If the cheese is aged just two to six months it is called "Primitive"; if six months or more, "Mature"; and if a year or more, "Extra".
While Pecarino is solidly sheep cheese, Moliterno may have up to 30% goat's milk. If aged long enough Moliterno may be hard and crumbly in texture, a darker golden color, aromatic with rustic grassiness and sweet caramel, and having strong rich flavors and saltiness. Locally the cheese is served with hot pepper jelly, on raw vegetables and pears, and grated on soups and pasta. It also pairs well with the local white wines of southern Italy.
Please join us tomorrow, the 19th of October, at 5pm when Nick Simonetti presents a tasting of Burgans, Albarino, Evodia Garnacha, Crocus Malbec (Paul Hobbs), and Terra Noble Gran Reserve Carmenere. The Moliterno will be on the table.