(CNN) — The Italian island of Sardinia sits in the course of the Tyrrhenian Sea, gazing at Italy from a distance. Surrounded by a 1,849-kilometer shoreline of white sandy seashores and emerald waters, the island’s inland panorama quickly rises to kind hills and impervious mountains.
And it’s inside these edgy curves that shepherds produce casu marzu, a maggot-infested cheese that, in 2009, the Guinness World Record proclaimed the world’s most harmful cheese.
Cheese skipper flies, Piophila casei, lay their eggs in cracks that kind in cheese, often fiore sardo, the island’s salty pecorino.
Maggots hatch, making their means by means of the paste, digesting proteins within the course of, and reworking the product right into a mushy creamy cheese.
Then the cheesemonger cracks open the highest — which is sort of untouched by maggots — to scoop out a spoonful of the creamy delicacy.
It’s not a second for the faint-hearted. At this level, the grubs inside start to writhe frantically.
Some locals spin the cheese by means of a centrifuge to merge the maggots with the cheese. Others prefer it au naturel. They open their mouths and eat every thing.
Casu marzu is made with sheeps’ milk.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
If you’ll be able to overcome the comprehensible disgust, marzu has a taste that’s intense with reminders of the Mediterranean pastures and spicy with an aftertaste that stays for hours.
“The maggot infestation is the spell and delight of this cheese,” says Paolo Solinas, a 29-year-old Sardinian gastronome.
He says some Sardinians cringe on the considered casu marzu, however others raised on a lifetime of salty pecorino unabashedly love its robust flavors.
“Some shepherds see the cheese as a unique personal pleasure, something that just a few elects can try,” Solinas provides.
It’s unlawful to promote or purchase casu marzu.
When vacationers go to Sardinia, they often wind up in a restaurant that serves porceddu sardo, a slowly roasted suckling piglet, go to bakers who promote pane carasau, a standard paper-thin flatbread, and meet shepherds who produce fiore sardo, the island pecorino cheese.
Yet, in case you are adventurous sufficient, it is potential to search out the casu marzu. It should not be seen as a bizarre attraction, however a product that retains alive an historical custom and hints at what the way forward for meals may appear like.
Giovanni Fancello, a 77-year-old Sardinian journalist and gastronome, spent his life researching native meals historical past. He’s traced it again to a time when Sardinia was a province of the Roman empire.
“Latin was our language, and it’s in our dialect that we find traces of our archaic cuisine,” Fancello says.
The cheese can solely be produced at sure instances of yr when the sheeps’ milk is true.
There is not any written document of Sardinian recipes till 1909, in response to Fancello. That’s when Vittorio Agnetti, a physician from mainland Modena, traveled to Sardinia and compiled six recipes in a e book referred to as “La nuova cucina delle specialità regionali.”
“But we have always eaten worms,” says Fancello. “Pliny the Elder and Aristotle talked about it.”
Ten different Italian areas have their variant of maggot-infested cheese, however whereas the merchandise elsewhere are thought to be one-offs, casu marzu is intrinsically a part of Sardinian meals tradition.
The cheese has a number of totally different names, resembling casu becciu, casu fattittu, hasu muhidu, formaggio marcio. Each sub-region of the island has its personal means of manufacturing it utilizing totally different sorts of milk.
‘Magic and supernatural occasions’
Foodies impressed by the exploits of cooks resembling Gordon Ramsay usually come seeking the cheese, says Fancello. “They ask us: ‘How do you make casu marzu?’ It’s part of our history. We are the sons of this food. It’s the result of chance, of magic and supernatural events.”
Fancello grew up within the city of Thiesi along with his father Sebastiano, who was a shepherd who made casu marzu. Facello shepherded his household’s sheep to grazing grounds round rural Monte Ruju, misplaced within the clouds, the place magic was believed to occur.
He remembers that, for his father, casu marzu was a divine reward. If his cheeses did not develop into infested with maggots, he can be determined. Some of the cheese he produced stayed for the household, others went to associates or individuals who requested for it.
Casu Marzu is often produced on the finish of June when native sheep milk begins to vary because the animals enter their reproductive time and the grass dries from the summer time warmth.
The coastal city of Alghero in Sardnina.
MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP by way of Getty Images
If a heat sirocco wind blows on the cheesemaking day, the cheese-transforming magic works even tougher. Fancello says it is as a result of the cheese has a weaker construction, making the fly’s job simpler.
After three months, the delicacy is prepared.
“You know when a form will become casu marzu,” he says. “You see it from the unusual spongy texture of the paste,” Murrocu says.
Nowadays, this is not a lot right down to luck as the best situations that cheesemongers now use to make sure as many casu marzu as potential. They’ve additionally discovered a means to make use of glass jars to preserve the cheese, which historically by no means lasted past September, for years.
Sardinia’s uncommon cheese dates again to Roman instances.
Though revered, the cheese’s authorized standing is a grey space.
Casu marzu is registered as a standard product of Sardinia and due to this fact is domestically protected. Still, it has been deemed unlawful by the Italian authorities since 1962 attributable to legal guidelines that prohibit the consumption of meals contaminated by parasites.
Those who promote the cheese can face excessive fines as much as €50,000 (about $60,000) however Sardinians snort when requested concerning the prohibition of their beloved cheese.
“Lots of cultures associate the insect with an ingredient,” Flore says. That mentioned, Sardinians desire the cheese to the maggot and are sometimes horrified by the concept folks eat scorpions or crickets in Thailand.
Flore says he is traveled all over the world to check how totally different cultures strategy bugs as meals and believes that whereas psychological boundaries make it troublesome to radically alter consuming habits, such consumption is widespread.
Insect consumption is extra commonplace in nations resembling Thailand.
PORNCHAI KITTIWONGSAKUL/AFP by way of Getty Images
“How do you define edible food?” he says .”Every region of the world has a different way to eat insects.”
He’s satisfied that Sardinia’s delicacy is suitable for eating.
“I believe that nobody has ever died eating casu marzu. If they did, maybe they were drunk. You know, when you eat it, you also drink lots of wine.”
Flore hopes casu marzu will quickly shed its clandestine standing and develop into an emblem of Sardinia — not due to its uncommon manufacturing, however as a result of it is emblematic of different meals now vanishing as a result of they do not slot in with trendy mainstream tastes.
Islanders and researchers hope that the European Union will quickly rule of their favor.
Until then, anybody who desires to pattern it might want to ask round after they get to Sardinia.
For these keen to droop issues about what they’re consuming, it provides an genuine expertise recalling a time when nothing was thrown away and when boundaries of what was edible or not have been much less nicely outlined.
Cheesemonger Murrocu says that, fittingly, locals maintain an open thoughts about one of the simplest ways to eat casu marzu, however just a few different regional treats have been identified to assist it slip down simpler.
“We spread the cheese on wet pane carasau, and we eat it,” he says. “But you can eat it as you want, as long as there is some formaggio marcio and a good cannonau wine.”