It seems that the Maiorchino has made its appearance around the seventeenth century. Still today, at Carnival, with the seasoned forms, in the communes of Basicò and Novara di Sicilia (in the province of Messina), the traditional ruzzola is carried out: the shepherds compete by rolling them down the slope of the main street of the town.
It is produced from February until the second decade of June (in the best years) in very small quantities, working with raw sheep’s milk (with an addition of about 20% of goat’s milk and sometimes up to 20% of cow’s milk) and adding rennet paste of kid or lamb.
The animals are reared on pastures rich in wild forage species of the Peloritani mountains.
Majorchino is cylindrical in shape with flat or slightly concave sides, an amber-yellow rind that turns brown as the cheese ages, and a compact white paste tending toward straw-colored. The height of the heel is 12 cm and the diameter is 35 cm, the weight ranges from 10 to 18 kilos.
The equipment is traditional: tinned copper cauldron (quarara), wooden stick (brocca), wooden fascera (garbua), wooden board (mastrello), wooden or iron rod.
After the curd has been broken into minute grains and cooked in the quarara, the paste is placed in the fascere. At this point begins the fascinating phase of drilling (or puncture), to facilitate the release of whey from the dough. An iron needle (the minacino) is used to pierce the air bubbles that gradually form in the paste, then gently pressing the surface of the pecorino with the hands. This is a slow and patient operation which can last up to two hours and is repeated, if necessary, after a second cooking.
The cheese is dry salted for 20 to 30 days and then aged (up to 24 months) in cool, damp, underground stone rooms with wooden shelves.
Maiorchino is the result of a centuries-old tradition, but it is at high risk of extinction. The production technique is in fact very complex and the cheese requires a long aging period: this intense preparation work is not repaid by the market.
The Presidium wants to revive the product, trying to convince local producers to revive cheese production, which has great potential.
Domenico Isgrò, Furnari (Me), Contrada Carone, Tel. +39 338 1885400, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mario Mirabile, S. Lucia del Mela (Me), Contrada Fanuso, Tel. +39 090 935886 / +39 360 531442