Cheese 148 Fiore Sardo: Fine, Foul, Fantastic!

There are many different types of pecorino cheese-and I have reviewed several of them on this site, but today’s cheese, is a very special one. Pecorino Sardo, also known as Fiore Sardo (the flower of Sardinia) It is a DOP (Denominazione d’Origine) cheese given PDO (Protected designation of Origin) status. Many people confuse this special cheese with its more famous relative, Pecorino Romano, but our little flower of Sardinia is a richer and less salty version. It’s also the traditional cheese used in pesto, providing a nice balance to the garlic and basil.This ancient cheese actually predates the more famous Pecorino Romano. Where Pecorino Romano can be a “tad biting,” Fiore Sardo tends to be less overpowering and delicate-or so they say.

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Fiore Sardo is a firm cheese, traditionally made from raw sheep’s milk specifically from the Sardinian breed of sheep. This is a truly ancient cheese, said to have originated during the  Bronze Age!  This cheese is traditionally made in small mountain huts by shepherds. The natural smoke from open fires in the huts give this cheese its characteristic smoky taste.

After the cheese is formed, it is briefly brined and then placed on a  natural rush mat suspended  above the fireplace of the mountain hut. This is old-school cheese smoking, and thus, I approve. I actually can’t stand “smoked” cheeses normally, but I must make an exception for this mountain-hut smoking. After this smoking, the cheese wheels are transferred the roof of the hut before going underground in a cellar for the last couple of months, where the wheels are flipped and rubbed with olive oil (!!!)

WARNING-THE INFORMATION AHEAD IS SLIGHTLY VILE

Fiore Sardo can be processed further into the most infamous cheese in the world-Casu Marzu, which is a fly maggot infested version of this cheese. As Casu is illegal, even in Sardinia, I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to review it, so this is about the closest I’m going to get. So shall we-for a minute, discuss dear Casu Marzu? This fabulous cheese goes for beyond fermentation into decomposition, this occurs via the digestive track of the larvae of the cheese fly, Piophila casei. The rind of the Fiore Sardo is cut open and the larvae are deliberately introduced. The fermentation of the larvae digestion breaks down the cheese fats making the cheese very soft and liquid. The live and translucent worms are ingested (live!!!!) along with the cheese. These larvae can jump up to 15 centimetres in the air so people cover their sandwiches with one hand as they eat their bread and cheese. I really wish I was joking!

Alas, today’s cheese is the non-maggot infested version of Fiore Sardo, although I must confess something. When I sat down to write this review I thought the cat had been sick somewhere near the computer. After searching for a few minutes, I realized it was the cheese. This is not a joke. It actually smells exactly like cat-sick, and this is WITHOUT the addition of fermentation and maggots. I just hope you appreciate the lengths I go to bring you the latest of cheese on this blog.

My thin slice of Fiore Sardo is dry and robust. The paste is textured throughout with small crystals. The paste is creamy in the interior, then gets darker brown near the rind. This is a naturally smoked cheese, and you can smell that smoke (through the cat-sick smell) as you get closer. It’s, um, pungent. I’m actually a little afraid, but at least there are no maggots leaping up to 15 centimetres from it, I must take small solace in this fact.

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Here goes…

Holy crap! FLAVOUR!!!! INTENSE!!!! It’s sharp, very sharp, and salty, and astringent and sheepy and crunchy and then smoky. It’s completely over the top. I think my husband would actually not be able to eat this one without immediate expiring . This is probably the most intense cheese I have tasted-and that’s saying something. It basically kicks you in the face, over and over again. It’s like every strong cheese taste in the world has been distilled into this one cheese. But, actually, it’s really good. Mmmm. It’s so freaky that it’s fabulous. It’s disgusting, but in a completely compelling way. This one is definitely NOT a starter cheese, but if you are looking for something to strip down your taste buds and reconfigure your idea of what is edible, go for it!