This rare breed thrives on lots of wild herbs, but very little water. As strictly wild grazers their milk yields are small, between three to six liters a day. It’s this high-fat, richly herbaceous milk that earns Caciocavallo Podolico cheese upwards of $50 a pound. Now that’s a lot of cheddar!
Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese
Caciocavallo pronounced ca‧cio‧ca‧vàl‧lo originates in southern Italy and is a hard cheese made from raw cow’s milk. Nicknamed “the Parmigiano Reggiano of the South” Caciocavallo Podolico tastes like a stronger more intense Parmigiano Reggiano. Intensely aromatic flavors come from the Podolica cow’s unique diet of wild fennel, licorice, and myrtle. The most valued Caciocavallo Podolico cheese is aged for many years, some up to twelve! As with all cheese, aging Caciocavallo Podolico cheese intensifies the flavor and creates a firm texture.
The Di Gilio family farm in Ferrandina (province of Matera) houses over 100 Podolica cattle. The video clip below shows the traditional milk-by-hand technique that is still used today. Plus an adorable Pololica calf who is looking mighty thirsty for Mom’s rich milk, so cute!
The story behind how Caciocavallo Podolico cheese is named Podolico after the Podolica cattle but wait, there’s more! In Italian “cacio” means cheese “cavallo” means horse and “a cavallo” means on horseback. Stretched and shaped by hand Caciocavallo bulbs are tied in pairs and hung over a beam or a tree branch to mature. The cheese is straddling as if on horseback and thus the full name.
Despite the cost and unusual shape Caciocavallo Podolico can be eaten like any other slice and serve cheese. That said harder-aged Caciocavallo is also perfect for grating over red meat sauces or Tajarin pasta with mushrooms. The flavor is intense and a little goes a long way. Personally, one of my favorite things about Caciocavallo is that it has staying power both in flavor and freshness. A very good quality for an expensive cheese to have! Kept in a cool, dry place Caciocavallo will last for several months. Once cut, simply store it in cheesecloth and keep it in the fridge.
In Italy Caciocavallo Podolico cheese isn’t hard to find. In America, it might be trickier. Here are a few tips on where to find Caciocavallo cheese near you. Murry’s Cheese one of New York City’s best cheese shops began bringing cheese to the masses back in 2015 when it partnered with Kroger. If you’re local Kroger leaves you empty-handed you can buy Caciocavallo online at Murry’s Cheese. At Whole Foods try asking the cheese counter if they can order it, especially for you!
My own first experience with Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese was a highly memorable one. My husband and I were window shopping in Vieste when the site of an entire wall of Caciocavallo Podolico Cheese stopped us in our tracks. When we stopped pointing our fingers when we realize we’d been caught gawking by the cheesemaker at Formaggeria La Massaia himself. Little did we know he was about to give us a tour of his cheese cave!
On hearing I was new to Caciocavallo Podolico we were welcomed into the shop’s cheese cave for a little Caciocavallo Podolico 101. Each step down those dark cellar stairs came with an intensifying aging cheese scent. It was here, standing among hundreds of bulbs of cheese that I learned about the Podolica cattle and Caciocavallo cheese.
That afternoon we feasted on an aged Caciocavallo Podolico cheese served with a side of tomatoes to smash on fresh crusty bread with local white wine. That experience is what convinced me Caciocavallo Podolico is worth the splurge! Especially when served up beside a gorgeous view of the Adriatic.
How about you? What’s your favorite guilty cheese pleasure?
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Caciocavallo Podolico References