Friday, March 25, 2016

Tasting Piacentinu Ennese: Sicily's 'Slow Cheese'

Two years ago I visited the rural part of Sicily with my university and was impressed by the incredible cultural diversity of the island and the many food traditions that are still alive today and that have been passed down from generation to generation. 

Many people associate the island of Sicily with sun and sea. Although it is true that in Sicily there are nice beaches and a warm climate, the island also has strong rural traditions and a unique cultural history. Populations such as Romans, Greeks, Arabs and Normans have conquered the island during different periods and left important traces in the local culture. These populations even had an impact on the Sicilian cuisine, which is really distinctive and varied. In the area of Enna, one can find traditional products such as the cheese "Piacentinu Ennese".

Piacentinu Ennese” is a D.O.P. (Denomination of Protected Origin) cheese made with sheep milk, saffron and black pepper. The name “Piacentinu” means, “well liked” in Sicilian dialect. In fact, it is a very popular product in the area of Enna and it is enjoyed by people of different ages. According to a legend, the Norman king Ruggero asked some dairymen to make a special cheese for her wife, who loved cheese but was deeply depressed. The dairymen decided to add in the milk some saffron, a local vegetable that has anti-depressant and stimulating properties. 

This cheese is a Slow Food presidium and is made by a handful of producers. I had the opportunity to visit the Di Venti dairy, established in 1929, that grows 50ha of organic fields and herd 300 sheep. In the farm they also grow the saffron used for the Piacentinu. If you visit Sicily, seeing first-hand the production of this traditional cheese is priceless. Have a look at the video below for a preview!


Location: 94100 Enna EN, Italia