Caciocavallo is an Italian cheese made of cow’s or sheep’s milk that has a pear shaped form and a firm rind. This cheese was originally prepared in Sicily, but is now popular across Italy. It enjoys the ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ status from the European Union, a status meant to protect local produce from unauthentic and duplicate commercial preparations and unfair competition.
The word ‘caciocavallo’ means ‘cheese on horse’s back’ in Italian, and is thought to have got this name because it may originally have been prepared by mare’s milk.
The pear shaped cheese is tied on the thin end by means of a string. The cheese can alternately be of spindle or round shapes. Some variants from Sicily are of cone or oval shape. When aged for about 3 months, it takes the form of table cheese, while on longer aging of a two year period it becomes fit for grating to use in different recipes. The more Caciocavallo is aged, the more pungent and granular it becomes. "Affumicato” is the name of the smoked version of the cheese.
Method of Preparation of Caciocavallo Cheese
Caciocavallo cheese is prepared by curdling of milk with calf’s rennet just like other varieties of cheese. After the milk curdles, the curds are allowed to stand for some time and then wound into ball like shapes and pressed. They are then put into hot water to seal the outside and then into cold water to lower the temperature. The cheese is then cured in salted water, after which it is tied be strings onto poles and left to age.
History of Caciocavallo
The cheese was prepared as long back as the 14th Century, and is considered by some to have been prepared by mare’s milk in old times.
Popular Caciocavallo Recipes
Caciocavallo recipes include a range of pastas, snacks, appetizers, etc. It falls under the category of ‘pasta filata’ kind of cheeses, which means it can be stretched and given different shapes with the hand. Here are some examples -
• Chanterelli Mushroom & Caciocavallo Cheese Strudel: It is a strudel pastry made with mushrooms, onions, caciocavallo cheese and eggs along with pastry.
• Eggplants Stuffed with Caciocavallo: This is a dish consisting of eggplant outer portion filled with a mix of garlic, tomatoes, capers, anchovies, onion, parsley, oregano, eggplant inner pulp, all cooked together in heated olive oil. The stuffed eggplants are baked in an oven.
Nutritive Value of Caciocavallo
Caciocavallo is rich in calcium like other types of cheeses, and hence is beneficial for dental care, bone health and conditions like osteoporosis. It is also helpful in hypertension as well as for gaining weight.