In the province of Grosseto, four rivers divide the Maremma into the same number of fertile plains: the Fiora, the Ombrone, the Pecora and the Albegna. This part of Tuscany has been known for grazing since the Middle Ages, and has been a destination for the transhumance, the seasonal migration of livestock, since the 17th century. Flocks would be brought from the Apennine mountains, the Tuscan interior and around Siena to stay here over the winter, a phenomenon that gave rise to the establishment of the Dogana dei Paschi, the “pasture customs,” which the state of Siena used from the late Middle Ages to exercise direct control over the pastures and collect the related taxes.
The seasonality of the grazing and the scant presence of settlements, at least until the swampy areas were reclaimed during the fascist era, were not conducive to the establishment of permanent cheesemaking businesses. The milk from the flocks that spent the winter here instead contributed to the production of excellent sheep’s milk cheese (pecorino) in other places, like Pienza and the Casentino. Only in the 20th century did the Maremma became the main place of production for pecorino in Tuscany.
There are still many dairies in the area, with a diversified production, though the majority of farmers and cheesemakers concentrate on PDO Pecorino Toscano.
Native breeds like the Amiatina are no longer the only ones to be farmed, but have been joined by breeds traditionally imported during the years of the transhumance, like the Sopravvissana, and with the migrations, like the Sarda.
The milk is processed directly on the farm and the resulting pecorino varies in size and age, from 20 days up to 180 days and more for the aged and reserve cheeses. This great variability is due to the fact that there has never been a set of rules for the Maremma farmers to follow, at least not until the establishment of the PDO for Pecorino Toscano, which however covers the whole region. The resulting slightly anarchic spontaneity has influenced the various types of cheese being made, so that alongside those who still use raw milk and no additives are producers who pasteurize their milk and use industrially produced starter cultures. But the quality of the pastures and of the milk from these sheep deserve a new unification of processing styles and the exclusive use of raw milk. This will be the Presidium’s main objective.
Traditionally produced between December and June, but now all year round, apart from during the hottest months and periods with reduced milk availability.