Designated as the “national cheese” of Corsica (a French island in the Mediterranean Sea), brocciu (protected denomination of origin – PDO) is such an integral part of the area’s culture that a poet, Emile Bergerat, said in the 19th century that “anyone who hasn’t tasted it doesn’t know the island.”
Brocciu cheese has an extremely long history and has been present on the island for as long as anyone can remember. The legendary story of its original creation is that the biblical Salomon gave the recipe for making it to Corsican herders thousands of years ago. The methods of producing it have been passed down from generation to generation over hundreds of years.
One of the primary components of Corsican cheese-making traditions is the situation of the island in the Mediterranean Sea and the originality of the island’s inhabitants in dairy production. Here, spontaneous pasturing traditions are valued using goats and sheep. The insularity, mountainous terrain and Mediterranean climate of Corsica have enormously impacted Corsican traditions – culinary and otherwise, helping to create a product as characteristic of the island as brocciu cheese.
Brocciu is a soft whey cheese made from goat or sheep’s milk. It has a very sweet and slightly acidic taste with hints of fresh milk and a very slight flavor associated with sheep and goat milk. Like ricotta cheese, to which it has sometimes been described as being similar, it’s is a very creamy, all-white cheese with a soft and smooth texture.
Brocciu is made from whey from curdled sheep’s milk (also sometimes goat’s milk) and is rich in protein. After adding 25% of whole sheep’s milk, the mixture is heated and brewed to a temperature between 175° and 195°F. It’s then delicately skimmed and molded into a round shape.
Due to its enormously long historical presence on the island, the cheese is integrally linked to both the terroir and history of the local culture. The protected denomination of origin – PDO designation helps to protect against imitation cheeses using raw materials from elsewhere from masquerading as true brocciu cheese, with its emblematic connection to Corsican culture.
The cheese is normally eaten fresh, but can also be made in a salted or dry form for use in particular dishes. For example, salted brocciu is often used in omelettes, tartes or stuffed pasta. Another dish, called fiadone, adds sugar and citrus to create a delicious dessert. While brocciu is found in numerous Corsican dishes, it is also frequently eaten on its own.