The most accredited thesis on the origins of the designation "Provolone del Monaco" refers to the fact that the housers who landed at dawn in the port of Naples, with their load of provolone from the various locations of the Sorrentine Peninsula, to protect From the cold and humidity, they used to cover themselves with a sack of linen cloak, which was similar to the saio worn by the monks.
Once we arrived in Naples, the people who worked at the market began to call these peasants, monks, and consequently the cheese they were carrying, Provolone del Monaco.
The "Provolone del Monaco DOP" is a semi-hard cheese with spun paste, matured, produced in the area of the Sorrentine Peninsula – Monti Latti, exclusively with raw milk. The specificity of the "provolone del Monaco DOP" is the result of a set of factors typical of the production area, in particular the organoleptic characteristics of the milk produced by bovine animals bred on the territory, the process of transformation that It still mirrors today the artisan traditions and the particular microclimate that characterizes the working and maturing environments.
Through the recognition of the PDO is now possible the recovery and enhancement of the entire zootechnical system of the production area, founded in particular on the breeding of bovine TGA (autochthonous genetic type) Agerolese. Originally from the Province of Naples, the Agerolese breed is widespread today only in the municipalities of Agerola and Gragg. It results from crossings of bovine animals of Frisian, Bruna and Jersey with the local indigenous population and is considered in danger of extinction by the FAO. The color of the mantle can vary from brown to black with a hemming of light hair around the muzzle also dark. The Agerolese cow has very modest yields, but, in contrast, produces a milk of the highest quality, also due to the geographical area of the Suckler mountains and the unique and pristine environment that is found there. This milk, in mixture, is used to produce not only the Provolone del Monaco but also the unequalled Fiordilatte and other cheeses with spun paste of renowned goodness typical of the area.
The distinctive features of the Provolone del Monaco DOP are
-A slightly elongated melon shape with a minimum weight of 2.5 kg and a maximum of 8;
-a thin crust of yellowish colour, almost smooth, with slight longitudinal inlets in correspondence of the raffia ties used for the support of the couple that divide the provolone into a minimum of 6 faces;
-a maturing period of at least six months, with a maximum yield of 9 kg per hectolitre of processed milk,
-A cream-coloured paste with yellowish tones, elastic, compact, uniform and without flaking, soft and with typical dark circles (a "Partridge's Eye");
-A fat content on the dry matter not less than 40.5%;
-A sweet and buttery taste and a light and pleasant spicy taste.
The pasture of the Milky Mountains, made from aromatic herbs present almost all year where the animals freely graze, and the seasoning environments give this cheese an intense aroma and taste, flavours exalted by the length of the seasoning Same. After 7-8 months the provolone tends to turn yellow further, thickening the crust and assuming a more spicy taste and a more consistent aspect of the dough, although still quite soft and always free of flakes. The technique of production of this cheese is very old and laborious: one works the raw milk of every single milking or at the maximum of two successive MILKINGSS and mixes with the goat's rennet. From the coagulation of raw milk, you get the curd, which is broken up to the size of small grains, using a wooden tool called "Sassa", then you move on to the following operations of scalding and spinning. The spinning is rather complex, so that, in some cases, to twist the curd, two people are required to intervene. When the dough has reached the desired consistency, the moulding is made which can be pear, or cylinder. The cheeses obtained are tied in pairs and hung on special frames, where they are left to mature, first at room temperature of drying from ten to twenty days and then in ambient temperature between 8 and 15 °c for a period of not less than six months . It follows the brine, drying and curing that is carried out in cellars for a period ranging from 4 to 18 months. But already at nine months the product reaches its excellence, with the peel that from month to month tends to darken until you reach the typical coloration of ripe hazelnuts. The "Provolone del Monaco DOP" is produced with milk from the for at least 20%, from bovines of type Agerolese registered in the register, and in the remaining quota (80%) from bovines of different breeds (Frisian, Brunalpina, Red dappled, Jersey, Podolica and local mestizo) Bred exclusively in the geographical area provided for by the specification.
The "Provolone del Monaco DOP" is a product of particular value, with a very high selling price, which can vary depending on the length of the aging time, but which for its particular characteristics can give the dishes a taste out of the municipality. An example is the recipe of "pasta and potatoes", food of poor origin that with the addition of a minimum quantity of Provolone del Monaco, both grated and in thin flakes, makes it become rich in perfumes and flavors and make it elevate to great Specialties. But the product, as well as enhancing many other early typical of Campania, is in the appetizers and at the end of the meal that makes fall in love at first sight the consumer for its intense taste and out of the ordinary.
Livestock breeding in the Milking Mountains – Sorrento Peninsula dates back to 260 BC, when the Picentini, the first inhabitants of these mountains, transformed the space taken from the woods into farmland and began the activity of animal husbandry Domestic, especially lattifera-aptitude cattle. The productions obtained from these animals have entered the tradition, culture and economy of this area, consolidating over the centuries. Decisive was the work of the Bourbons, which favoured the genetic improvement of the types bred through works of intersection with excellent results. It goes in particular mentioned the patient work of the military of Ventura Avitabile that, through the crossroads of mestizo of Bruna and Podolica with the race Jersey, came to obtain specimens of a new race, the Agerolese precisely.
The first detailed description of the breed dates back to 1909, curated by Dr. E. Mollo describing the breeding of bovine animals in the district of Castellammare and especially in the Sorrentine Peninsula, gives a detailed description of the cattle bred in this territory. But it was only in 1952, when the breed standard was presented to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, that it officially took the name "Agerolese". In recent decades, however, other races have been introduced gradually replacing to autochthonous ones, such as Agerolese, improving quantitative performance but to the detriment certainly of the qualitative aspect of the product. With the growing interest in the typical quality products of the territory and the careful recovery of the agro-alimentary traditions There has been a gradual revaluation of the native breeds and this has also happened in the area of the milkers, thus allowing to be able Start the recognition of the PDO. The Provolone del Monaco, but also the Fior di latte, the Scamorza are born in this area, always known for the goodness of its cheeses. Of the origin of the denomination it was said, linked to the name of the mantle, similar to a saio, used by the transporters that by sea came to sell their product in Naples, capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
The specificity of the "provolone del Monaco DOP" stems from the typicality of the raw material, which is skilfully transformed by the skillful hands of the housers who jealously guard the secrets of the workmanship of the past. Not negligible frame of this process is the particular microclimate that we find in the working and maturing environments. It is precisely the whole of these breeding and transformation characteristics, inserted in such a variegated environment, which contributes to giving a perfume and an unequalled taste to the product.
The production of the "Provolone del Monaco DOP" concerns the province of Naples, in particular the Sorrentine Peninsula and the territory of the Milking mountains. In particular, the geographical area of cattle breeding, production and curing of the "Provolone del Monaco DOP", are bounded by the entire territories of the following municipalities, falling in the province of Naples: Agerola, Casola of Naples, Castellammare of Stabia, Gragg, letters, Massa Lubrense, Meta, Piano di Sorrento, Pimonte, Sant'Agnello, Sorrento, Santa Maria La charity, Vico Equense.