Canestrato is a type of pecorino made in the commune of Moliterno, located at the intersection of Campania, Calabria and Basilicata. Its name comes from the Latin word ”mulcternum,” meaning a place where you milk animals and let it coagulate. Canestrato is made with sheep and goat’s milk. The animals are all pasture-raised. Sometimes milk from the podolica breed of cow is used too. During the last century, there were two types of Canestrato: the richer, fatter cheese made during the winter with milk from herds feeding in wet pastures, and the less rich, but more aromatic cheese, made during the summer when the hers are in the mountain pastures.
Canestrato is made with raw milk and goat rennet. The curd is broken by hand and place in wicker baskets and pressed by hand to remove the excess whey. Then the wheels are places in hot whey to cook for about fifteen minutes.
Salt is then applied to the cheese by hand and the wheels are places in a cool place to age for about fifteen days. After this initial aging period, the wheels are placed on reeds and are polished with pumice stones. Then they are aged again for 2 to 8 months, during which time they are turned occasionally and brushed with oil and vinegar.
The final product is round in cylindrical in shape and weights between 2 and 18 lbs. It has a rosy rind that is ridged due to the reeds used to press the cheese and on which it ages. It has a soft and fairly fatty paste that is ivory colored and its flavor is strong, leaning towards spicy.
Like many other types of pecorino, Canestrato pairs well with fresh, raw vegetables and pears. The older cheeses can be grated on pasta with meat rage or soups. Pecorino is made throughout Italy, but some of the more varieties are Toscano, Romano, Siciliano and Pecorino Sardo. A limited amount of high-quality pecorino is made high in the Apennine mountain range in the province of Reggio Emilia.