The PDO Ragusano cheese takes its origin in the area of the Province of Ragusa (Sicily, Italy) and in the municipalities of Noto, Palazzolo Acreide and Rosolini in the Province of Siracusa.
It is a stretched-curd cheese, characterised as being obtained by a stretching process carried out using hot water at 70-80°C. It is produced using whole raw cow’s milk, during the forage season. Its production is still made in a traditional method using wooden tools.
Parallelepiped in shape with a colour that varies from gold or straw yellow to brown, it has a square cross-section and rounded corners (due to the rope used to hang cheeses during the maturing process); the rind bears the imprint of the cheesemaker, the trademark (Ragusano DOP), its serial number and the hot brand of quality-certification.
Its weight varies from 12 to 16 kg. Its taste is pleasant, mild and slightly piquant in the early ripening months, which becomes more piquant with a longer maturation.
Maturing and production methods
Maturing takes place in cool places with walls geologically natural where there is a temperature of 14-16°C, with humidity of 80-90%. The cheeses are tied together in pairs with thin ropes and hung on wooden beams. In order to qualify for the PDO trademark the cheese must ripen for at least 3 months; this stage may also take more than 12 months.
The cattle are fed with grasses and wild plants from the Hyblaean plateau, possibly also hay fodder. The milk from one or more milkings, curdled at 34°C, exploits the development of the indigenous dairy microflora.
Its production is still made in a traditional method using wooden tools; salting, in saturated brine, must have a salt content not exceeding 6%.
The rind is smooth, thin, compact and with a colour that varies from gold or straw yellow to brown, as the cheese matures and also if covered with olive oil.
The paste is white, compact and bordering on straw yellow.
Its taste is pleasant, mild and slightly piquant in the early ripening months, which becomes more piquant with a longer maturation.
The fat content must not be lower than 40% for table cheeses and 38% for those ripened for more than 6 months. The moisture content must not exceed 40%.
How to recognise a real PDO Ragusano Cheese
It is recognisable through the sign “Ragusano” dotted on the sides and two “Ragusano DOP” hot brands affixed on the upper and the lower faces, as well as a green casein label with an identification number for traceability.
The Consortium for the protection of the P.D.O. Ragusano Cheese
The Consortium for the protection of the P.D.O. Ragusano Cheese is set up by the companies, both individual and grouped, interested in the production of the traditional and typical cheese from the Hyblaean area. The aim of the Consortium is to safeguard the production of the PDO Ragusano Cheese, in accordance with the production specification, and the use of its PDO (protected designation of origin) mark, as well as to guarantee its enhancement and promotion in order to foster the marketing of it.
Advice to taste the PDO Ragusano cheese
The PDO Ragusano cheese is widely used in preparing typical Sicilian dishes. Fresh it matches well with white wines, when ripened its flavour is enhanced if tasted with red wines, especially the typical Sicilian wines, such as Nero d’Avola, Merlot, Syrah and Cerasuolo di Vittoria.