Conciato Romano is actually from Campania and is also the oldest cheese in the world.

by Yuri Buono

The Roman tanned is a cheese destined to surprise those who taste it, not only for its characteristic flavor, but also because it is oldest ever and which, despite the name, has Campania origins.
Well, to tell you its story I have to go back to the sixth century. B.C when the Samnites Caudini occupied a small village named "Trebula Balliensis", the current fraction of Treglia in the municipality of Pontelatone.

Conciato romano
The Roman tanned

Let's start here, from Alto Casertano

My journey in search of "A cheese" starts here: long years of battles, strong and tempered people from the roughness of the place, dedicated to herding and al tanned.
For many it is the oldest cheese in the world!
Certainly its origins are lost in night of the times, among those Samnites who perhaps needed something "loud" to fight enemies.
The first forms of tanned leather were born on those mountains, in those tribes, between Trebula and Cales (the current Calvi Risorta), place where the terracotta amphorae with a thousand uses and certainly used to preserve oil, wine and cheese.
But history, as we know, is made by the victors and at the end of the Samnite wars the Romans won and it is for this reason that that cheese produced by the Samnite tribes has gone down in history with the name of Roman tanned.
In short, this patch of land in the Upper Casertano tells a story that still excites, which one has the duty to tell why we had almost managed to lose the tanned production too and if this did not happen we have to thank those (few) courageous producers that - while fighting between bureaucracy and obstacles of various kinds - continue to believe and tell the history of this territory which when we were a Kingdom bore the name of "Land of Work".

conciato romano a tavola
Roman tanned and figs: delicious pairing!

The production of Roman tanning

The term "tanned" refers to typical production technique which involves the use of kid rennet and of whole sheep's milk. There curd is broken by hand and the wheels, once left to dry for a fortnight in wooden "farmhouses" protected by appropriate nets, are first washed with the cooking water of the "Pettole" - one rich homemade pasta starch with antibacterial functions - then dried and, in fact, “Tanned” with thyme, chilli, extra virgin olive oil and the famous wine Old house. They are then transferred to the terracotta amphorae on which a plug, so as to be sealed and thus prevent the passage of air.
Time will pass, even up to two years, and the tanned cheese will become softer and tastier, but when you try to taste it it will pinch your tongue because it has a strong flavor and intense and herbaceous smells will be released..

An "extreme cheese"

Someone called it an "extreme cheese" and I agree. Extreme because out of the ordinary, so much so that the Latin poet Martial (ca. 40 BC - 104 AD), in one of his Epigrams (Book XIII, 33) on Treviso cheeses he wrote: "Trebula nos genuit, commendat gratia duplex, sive levi flamma, sive domamur aqua", or "Trebula generated us, and a double merit recommends us, whether we are softened by a light flame, or by water".
Here, all this is the “Roman tanned”, a cheese that has become Slow Food Presidium just for his limited production, which is not only tasted with the palate, but first with the mind; a cheese whose judgment does not depend on pleasure of the moment, but with a millenary history enclosed in it.
If you are not ready to taste it as it is, if for you - in the end - it is still just a cheese, then forget it, because a cheese can also be, and above all, the History and Memory of a people.

Yuri Buono
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