Historical Traditional Sicilian Cheeses: Origin and Variety

Historical Traditional Sicilian Cheeses: Origin and Variety

The legend tells that an Arab merchant during a trip across the desert, brought with him, as a meal, some milk in a animal bag. There was hot and the enzymes in the animal bag with the movement of the horse converted the milk from a liquid to a solid like a curd. From that time the history of the cheese evolved and nowadays we have thousands of cheeses, some of them are at risk of extinction, due to the lost of traditions.

For this reason CoRFiLaC focused an important part of its research on Historical Sicilian Cheeses. Since ancient times cheese was one of the most important products of the agriculture and pastoralism (shepherding), as a complete feed and necessary for the daily diet. Cheese was considered as a natural method to safe milk that even if the processing preserved its nutrition properties. The Sicilian dairy culture has a thousands of years of tradition described on the classical literature texts. The different cheesemaking process of the historical Sicilian cheeses and the equipment variety useful for the production taken part of the socio-cultural context of the Sicily peasant.

The Historical Sicilian Cheeses find their roots in the traditional manufacturing systems, from which derive a number of factors, defined as biodiversity factors.

The most important biodiversity characters are raw milk that comprises all the peculiarities of the territory; the use of natural rennet; the use of traditional equipment (wood, copper…) necessary for the natural concentration of indigenous dairy microorganisms; the aging and maturation process of cheeses in natural aging center capable of ensuring a cool, ventilated and sometimes humid environment. These are crucial factors for the enzymatic processes both of microbial origin and deriving from milk, rennet and tools.


CoRFiLaC is designed as the entity to certify two of the four Sicilian PDO cheeses, Ragusano and Sicilian Pecorino PDO.

Il CoRFiLaC è l’ente preposto alla certificazione a marchio di origine di due della quattro produzioni casearie siciliane DOP: il Ragusano DOP ed il Pecorino Siciliano DOP.

PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) it’s a legal safeguard brand that the European Community gives to the food products with qualitative peculiarities deriving from the territory of the origin. The geographical environment includes both natural factors (climate, environmental characteristics) and human factors (traditional production systems). These factors permit to obtain an unique product that it’s impossible to reproduce in a different production area. To produce PDO cheeses means to follow the strict production rules indicated on the disciplinary. The respect of the rules is guaranteed by the certifying body.


Sono molti e specifici i fattori responsabili della diversità bio-organolettica intrinseca nei prodotti caseari tradizionali. I principali sono sicuramente ascrivibili, oltre al casaro, alla razza, all’alimentazione, al pascolo, all’utilizzazione di latte crudo e di cagli naturali, agli strumenti di caseificazione ed ai centri di stagionatura naturali.

Un elemento di specificità importante è la flora microbica naturale del latte crudo, fortificata ed arricchita dalla nicchia microbica degli attrezzi di legno utilizzati per la caseificazione, e dei locali di stagionatura naturali.

Prodotti caseari che, per la loro diversità bio-organolettica ed in quanto “testimonial” del patrimonio storico-culturale delle popolazioni e dei luoghi cui appartengono, vanno annoverati tra le opere d’arte.