The term Pecorino designates each of the six Italian cheeses (Romano, Toscano, Sardo, Filiano, Crotonese and Siciliano) designated as being produced exclusively from sheep’s milk. Note that the names correspond to Italian regions or provinces. Also note that American cheeses that are also called Pecorino come from cow’s milk because the American dairy system and American flavors are built around cow’s milk.

As a member of the European Union, Italy received legal protection of the process for making the Pecorino cheeses. Pecorino Romano, for example, a cheese developed as a key component of the diet of Roman soldiers, is still hand-salted as it ages, just as it was during the days of the Roman Empire. There are variations of these cheeses, mainly due to village traditions of adding some kind of nuts, truffles or honey to the cheese. Some additives boldly cross into the “What are you thinking?” category, for example the variety called Casu Marzu, where larvae of a fly (the cheese fly) are embedded in the cheese to make the cheese ferment. Casu Marzu literally means “rotten cheese.”

Americans are more familiar with Pecorino Romano. Usually it is labeled as grated Romano cheese. It is sprinkled on Italian dishes in the same way as parmesan cheese is applied. Romano is saltier and sharper, and more of both the longer the cheese wheel is aged. Apparently, the Roman soldiers appreciated the qualities that aging gave.

I found three references to cheese or curds (boiled goat’s milk) in the Christian Bible. Butter is mentioned more often, but cheese does not seem to have been a common food in the Hebrew or Arab diet. As mentioned, the Romans made and provided cheese for the soldiers’ rations. Roman authorities and soldiers were common in Judea during Jesus’ ministry. So the Hebrews knew it as a provision that accompanied and supported their conquerors. However, a verse in the Bible’s Old Testament reveals a different conclusion about cheese.

Online search 1 Samuel 17:8. The book of Samuel was written by Samuel, the Hebrew prophet who lived between 1070 and 1012 BC. (number of years before the birth of Jesus Christ). Samuel’s time was during the first dynasty of Hebrew kings (Saul) and more than 500 years before the Romans had an empire. The Hebrew people had occupied the land of Canaan that God had promised them, and settled the land to keep and herd livestock, mostly goats, and to farm. Perhaps cheese, a by-product of goat’s milk, was accepted and used by them.

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