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I wasn't sure if this was really the right place to post this, or whether some other thread that attracts the more thrillseeking crowd would be more appropriate.

Did anyone else peruse the latest Saveur magazine and find the sidebar on Casu marzu cheese from Sardinia? It seems, though "illegal" in Italy, a cheese is developed from Pecorino, by infesting it with fly larvae, and aging it in darkness, so the "maggots remain dormant." The maggots live in the cheese, eating it, making it "pungent and creamy-chunky in texture."

Has anyone out there tried this? Would you?!

I love all things Italy, but come on.

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Actually, they made some hip young folk eat it on a recent episode of "Fear Factor"(the only one I have ever seen, honest, and then only for 5 minutes, and only because of the cheese!). Most gagged pretty severely. Of course, they billed it as rotten cheese, rather than explaining that it was edible and quite a delicacy in Sardegna...

Bill Klapp

bklapp@egullet.com

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I always wonder about the origin of these cultural oddities. Did someone long ago find a round left in the dark, eat it, find it delicious, and then realize it was full of maggots? Or maybe times were so tough at some point, nobody cared, and at least it was something to eat.

We try to make a habit of ordering "la specialita della regione" and taking our chances. I'd love to see Sardinia, and I suppose no one would offer us this stuff without due warning. I guess we're safe.

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Alberts, I couldn't agree with you more.

I could never look at this stuff, never mind eat it.

My favorite part of the piece is when he describes taking the cheese out into the light:

"...and the maggots started jumping around like crazy and landing everywhere, including on us." :blink:

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Has anyone out there tried this? Would you?!

I tried it, without knowing what it was a few years ago. We (my parents, brothers and me) were staying near Dorgali, on the eastern coast of Sardinia, on holiday and the family that owned our little holyday bungalow invited us one eavening for a Sardinian after dinner "snack", i.e. vernaccia wine and carta musica (or pane carasau) wetted and wrapped around a cramy pungent cheese, well yes... casu marzu. I have to admit that I liked it till I found out what it was, then could not bring myself to have another byte. The most curious thing is that my youngest brother, just over 4 at the time, loved the stuff and would have eaten a jarfull of it ifv he could have. I afterwards learned that there's also a version without the critters, i.e. the cheese that's left after the maggots have "left" which tastes more or less the same and has less "shock" value.

All things considered I have to admit I would have no proble eating it again... it did taste good after all ;-))

p.s. for Alberts: we were offerd the stuff WITHOUT warning. I guess a joke to play on the tourists.

Edited by albiston (log)
Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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I don't know. Eating something that even the maggots and flies have left!

I suppose it is hard to pass judgment on what is "ok" and what is not, except that even the health authorities in Italy don't think this cheese is a good idea. I have been known to do a lot of things on vacation that I might not do normally.

That article in the Portland Mercury was great, though.

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Has anyone out there tried this? Would you?!

I love all things Italy, but come on.

A long while back my, then Piemontese wife's family, brought out a bottle from the larder and proceded to offer me some cheese. I couln't help noticing the maggots (!) jumping around on the cheese. I can't remember the name of the hard cheese but it's quite common in Piemonte and I don't think it was illegal (even if it was 'home-brewed'). Actually it was quite nice although very strong.

The only messy part was the maggots crawling around your throat as you swallowed (only joking here!).

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For those of you who haven't seen the Saveur, I got so excited I typed it in here.

I would try the version the maggots had vacated. The live one would be a little tough.

What I really want to know is the sardo for "walking cheese", its alternative name.

PS: it is listed in the slow food Ark.

PPS: the most amazing St-Marcellin I ever had, from Bocuse's cellar, was covered with mold, but no larvae.

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A couple of years ago I asked the owner of a cheesee store in Aqui Terme for a piece of old Castelmagno. The next morning I brought it down to the breakfast room of our hotel. I opened it and saw that the piece was crawling with maggots. I gave it to the woman behind the bar to throw away. I had read about other Italian cheeses such as those described above, but never a Castelmagno. This may be what Peter bought.

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I had read about other Italian cheeses such as those described above, but never a Castelmagno. This may be what Peter bought.

Could well be. It wasn't bought 'though, it came from the back of the larder in a private home so it was not a mistake.

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Hearing about the story from Piemonte, and yours Robert is making me wonder whether maggots do something special to cheese... any hard, aged cheese...that adds texture and flavor (?). I guess it doesn't need to be pecorino.

Still not gonna try it.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 year later...

I consistently get these two cheeses confused. Both seem to be derivatives of the pasta filata method that gives us mozarella/fior di latte cheese but then both are aged. Scamorza is smoked, but is caciocavallo smoked also?

When I've bought scamorza here in Dallas its been overwhelmingly smoky. Good enough on its own but not something you want to garnish a dish with as it is more traditionally done. Further confusing things is smoked mozarella, which seems to be smoked while it's still young and very soft, whereas the scamorza I've seen seems more "cured" or harder.

I've not yet seen caciocavallo cheese here. Is provolone an acceptable substitute?

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I consistently get these two cheeses confused.  Both seem to be derivatives of the pasta filata method that gives us mozarella/fior di latte cheese but then both are aged.  Scamorza is smoked, but is caciocavallo smoked also? 

When I've bought scamorza here in Dallas its been overwhelmingly smoky.  Good enough on its own but not something you want to garnish a dish with as it is more traditionally done. Further confusing things is smoked mozarella, which seems to be smoked while it's still young and very soft, whereas the scamorza I've seen seems more "cured" or harder. 

I've not yet seen caciocavallo cheese here.  Is provolone an acceptable substitute?

Kevin - caciocavallo is a cheese that changes depending on its age etc. When it is young it tastes a little like provola dolce, but once aged it is hard enough to grate and tastes more nutty. Provolone is a good substiute, but use a younger/milder type.

Not all scamorza is smoked, but my experience in ordering pizza is that if this cheese is mentioned, then it will be the smoked type.

Another cheese bit of information. According to Mary Taylor Simeti "parmigiana" as is Melanzane alla parmigina" comes from the Sicilian word "palmigiana, which means shutter (the overlapping slices look like a louvers of a shutter). Sicilians don't pronounce the 'l' distinctly, you get a name that leads to confusion with the cheese. Is it true? No bloody idea.

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The pasta filata cheeses are all similar with some of the differences due to regionality and production methods.

Scamorza and mozzarella are most authentically made from water buffalo milk, although many are now made with cow's milk (i.e fior di latte). Scamorza is basically like mozzarella, although is generally firmer and saltier. It is aged for a short while unlike mozzarella which is best fresh. These are principally from Campania, particularly the buffalo rich areas around Salerno and Caserta. I believe that in Campania it is only the scamorza that is smoked, though I am not positive about that.

Caciocavallo is thought by some to have originated as a mare's milk cheese, but now is generally a cow's milk cheese. It is likely related to the Kaskaval cheeses of the easteren Mediterranean. It is the Parmagianno of Sicily and southern Italy and often used as a grating cheese. Ragusano is a specific form of this cheese from the area around the city of Ragusa.

Provolone is another cow's milk cheese that, although the books say is from Lombardy, I more commonly associate with Campania.This cheese was apparently familiar to the Ancient Romans. It is basically long-aged mozzarella, although the production process is somewhat different. IMO the best of these are very sharp (Provolone Piccante) and best served as an eating cheese as part of an antepasto. This cheese has a distinctive flavor. Aurrechio is good and commonly found brand in the U.S. American provolone have less dry matter than the Italian cheeses and as a result are softer.

Provole are made from cow's, buffalo or a mixture of the two milks and are shorter ripened than provolone.

Depending on the use the cheeses are somewhat interchangeable. Mozzarella is certainly the best melting cheese, although scamorza and provolone are good as well. What goes for provolone in a lot of the US melts well, but really is a pale imitation of the good stuff. Good aged provolone is more piquantly flavored than, but might be an acceptable substitute for a caciocavallo, although both can be purchased online from iGourmet.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Another cheese bit of information. According to Mary Taylor Simeti "parmigiana" as is Melanzane alla parmigina" comes from the Sicilian word "palmigiana, which means shutter (the overlapping slices look like a louvers of a shutter). Sicilians don't pronounce the 'l' distinctly, you get a name that leads to confusion with the cheese. Is it true? No bloody idea.

This certainly makes sense since the predominant cheese in these preparations is mozzarella and not parmegianno.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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As a side note I had really home made scialatelli pasta with melted buffalo scamorza and eggplant at a beach fish shack in Capri (Lido del Faro) a few hours ago which was the type of pasta dish that makes you dizzy with pleasure. Prior to this they dived (upon my request) to collect 10 sea urchins and the patelle pasta (bigourneaux in French) was almost as good as the scamorza. The small island aragosta was also alive when brought to attention and it was perfectly grilled. It was sensational accompanied by fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes and sweet onions.

They also have fresh pezzogne right now which is a great fish! This is part of tonight's menu though!

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As a side note I had really home made scialatelli pasta with melted buffalo scamorza and eggplant at a beach fish shack in Capri (Lido del Faro) a few hours ago which was the type of pasta dish that makes you dizzy with pleasure.  Prior to this they dived (upon my request) to collect 10 sea urchins and the patelle pasta (bigourneaux in French) was almost as good as the scamorza. The small island aragosta was also alive when brought to attention and it was perfectly grilled. It was sensational accompanied by fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes and sweet onions.

They also have fresh pezzogne right now which is a great fish! This is part of tonight's menu though!

Rub it in :laugh::cool: Enjoy!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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