Not All Pecorino Is Created Equal: A Beginner's Guide to Sheep's Milk Cheese

Posted by Emilia D'Albero on

When you hear the word "pecorino," your first thought is most likely Pecorino Romano, Italy's salty, briny specialty sheep's milk cheese known most widely for its role in the dish cacio e pepe. But not all pecorino is created equal, and in fact the word "pecorino" does not denote one particular cheese - instead, it is simply a generic term for any cheese made from sheep's milk, as the word is derived from the Italian "pecora" meaning "sheep". Pecorino is made all over the boot, in hundreds of varieties, and included in the regional cuisine of nearly all 20 regions of Italy. From the tomato paste-rubbed Pecorino Marzolino of Tuscany to the gently smoked Pecorino Fiore Sardo of the island of Sardegna, sheep's milk cheese is an important part of Italian culinary history that reflects the gastronomic traditions of the areas where it originated. 

But sheep's milk cheese is not exclusive to pecorino or even to Italy; in fact, sheep were the first animals domesticated for milk production in the Fertile Crescent, which is the Middle East today. Evidence of sheep’s milk cheese can be found throughout history, dating back to the Roman Empire. It has also been written about for centuries, most notably in Homer’s Odyssey, which mentions a ewe’s milk cheese made by the cyclops Polyphemus.

There are a few reasons why sheep's milk is particularly suited for cheesemaking - first, the solid components of sheep's milk (fat, protein, lactose) are higher than cow's milk, meaning a higher yield of cheese. Sheep's milk also contains more flavor-producing short chain fatty acids, as well as conjugated linoleic acid that has been known to support your immune system. 

With all this in mind, of course it makes sense that some of your favorite iconic cheeses are made exclusively with sheep's milk! We have sheep to thank for household favorites like Manchego and Ossau Iraty, as well as cheesemonger favorites like the custardy torta-style cheeses from Spain and Portugal. The USA is also home to stellar sheep's milk cheesemakers like Landmark Creamery, Green Dirt Farm, and occasionally Blakesville Creamery, who are usually known for their award-winning goat milk cheeses from Wisconsin but occasionally foray into sheep milk territory. 

But while sheep's milk cheeses are delightfully delicious, they can also be a bit more difficult to store at home to keep them in peak condition. Formaticum Cheese Storage Bags are the perfect way to prevent your precious wedges from drying out in the fridge or taking on unwanted flavors or aromas. Try our new Reusable Cheese Storage Bags for an added level of protection from the excess butterfat typical of aged sheep's milk cheese - while our classic bags should be recycled at the sight of a butterfat stain, Reusable Bags can be hand-washed, air dried, and reused again and again - they're a cheese's best friend! 

And don't forget to use our greaseproof Board Liners for your next cheese platter or grazing table featuring sheep's milk cheese, especially in the summer heat!

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