Casu marzu: The world's 'most dangerous' cheese

(CNN) — The Italian island of Sardinia sits in the center of the Tyrrhenian Sea, gazing at Italy from a length. Surrounded by a 1,849-kilometer coastline of white sandy beach locations and emerald waters, the island’s inland landscape fast rises to kind hills and impervious mountains.

And it is within just these edgy curves that shepherds deliver casu marzu, a maggot-infested cheese that, in 2009, the Guinness Globe History proclaimed the world’s most harmful cheese.

Cheese skipper flies, Piophila casei, lay their eggs in cracks that sort in cheese, commonly fiore sardo, the island’s salty pecorino.

Maggots hatch, building their way by means of the paste, digesting proteins in the system, and transforming the products into a comfortable creamy cheese.

Then the cheesemonger cracks open the leading — which is pretty much untouched by maggots — to scoop out a spoonful of the creamy delicacy.

It really is not a instant for the faint-hearted. At this stage, the grubs inside of start out to writhe frantically.

Some locals spin the cheese via a centrifuge to merge the maggots with the cheese. Many others like it au naturel. They open their mouths and take in anything.

Casu marzu is manufactured with sheeps’ milk.

Sean Gallup/Getty Visuals

If you are able to conquer the easy to understand disgust, marzu has a flavor that is intensive with reminders of the Mediterranean pastures and spicy with an aftertaste that stays for hrs.

Some say it can be an aphrodisiac. Other people say that it could be risky for human wellness as maggots could survive the chunk and and generate myiasis, micro-perforations in the intestine, but so much, no these kinds of case has been joined to casu marzu.

“The maggot infestation is the spell and delight of this cheese,” says Paolo Solinas, a 29-calendar year-old Sardinian gastronome.

He suggests some Sardinians cringe at the imagined of casu marzu, but some others elevated on a life time of salty pecorino unabashedly love its strong flavors.

“Some shepherds see the cheese as a exclusive personalized pleasure, a little something that just a handful of elects can try out,” Solinas provides.

Archaic cuisine

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It is really illegal to market or purchase casu marzu.

Giovanni Fancello

When tourists pay a visit to Sardinia, they typically wind up in a restaurant that serves porceddu sardo, a gradually roasted suckling piglet, go to bakers who provide pane carasau, a regular paper-thin flatbread, and meet shepherds who generate fiore sardo, the island pecorino cheese.

However, if you are adventurous ample, it is probable to find the casu marzu. It should not be noticed as a odd attraction, but a merchandise that keeps alive an historical tradition and hints at what the foreseeable future of foods might appear like.

Giovanni Fancello, a 77-calendar year-old Sardinian journalist and gastronome, invested his life studying regional meals record. He’s traced it again to a time when Sardinia was a province of the Roman empire.

“Latin was our language, and it can be in our dialect that we locate traces of our archaic delicacies,” Fancello states.

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The cheese can only be made at sure moments of yr when the sheeps’ milk is ideal.

Alice Mastinu

There is no created record of Sardinian recipes till 1909, according to Fancello. That’s when Vittorio Agnetti, a health care provider 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 normally eaten worms,” suggests Fancello. “Pliny the Elder and Aristotle talked about it.”

Ten other Italian regions have their variant of maggot-infested cheese, but when the merchandise elsewhere are regarded as just one-offs, casu marzu is intrinsically aspect of Sardinian foods culture.

The cheese has various different names, these types of as casu becciu, casu fattittu, hasu muhidu, formaggio marcio. Every sub-region of the island has its own way of producing it using various types of milk.

‘Magic and supernatural events’

Foodies encouraged by the exploits of cooks these as Gordon Ramsay frequently occur in lookup of the cheese, states Fancello. “They check with us: ‘How do you make casu marzu?’ It’s section of our record. We are the sons of this food. It really is the end result of probability, of magic and supernatural situations.”

Fancello grew up in the town of Thiesi with his father Sebastiano, who was a shepherd who made casu marzu. Facello shepherded his family’s sheep to grazing grounds all-around rural Monte Ruju, lost in the clouds, in which magic was believed to materialize.

He recollects that, for his father, casu marzu was a divine reward. If his cheeses didn’t come to be infested with maggots, he would be determined. Some of the cheese he produced stayed for the loved ones, other folks went to buddies or individuals who asked for it.

Casu Marzu is usually produced at the finish of June when community sheep milk commences to improve as the animals enter their reproductive time and the grass dries from the summertime warmth.

The coastal town of Alghero in Sardnina.

The coastal town of Alghero in Sardnina.

MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Photographs

If a warm sirocco wind blows on the cheesemaking working day, the cheese-transforming magic is effective even tougher. Fancello claims it really is simply because the cheese has a weaker structure, producing the fly’s career less complicated.

Soon after three months, the delicacy is prepared.

Mario Murrocu, 66, retains casu marzu traditions alive at his farm, Agriturismo Sa Mandra, in the vicinity of Alghero in the north of Sardinia. He also retains 300 sheep and hosts friends in his trattoria, and retains casu marzu traditions alive.

“You know when a sort will grow to be casu marzu,” he states. “You see it from the uncommon spongy texture of the paste,” Murrocu states.

Presently, this is just not so a great deal down to luck as the perfect ailments that cheesemongers now use to guarantee as many casu marzu as feasible. They have also figured out a way to use glass jars to conserve the cheese, which typically under no circumstances lasted outside of September, for yrs.

Significant fines

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Sardinia’s abnormal cheese dates back to Roman instances.

Alice Mastinu

However revered, the cheese’s authorized standing is a gray spot.

Casu marzu is registered as a conventional product or service of Sardinia and as a result is domestically shielded. Nonetheless, it has been deemed unlawful by the Italian government because 1962 because of to rules that prohibit the use of meals infected by parasites.

Individuals who provide the cheese can facial area high fines up to €50,000 (about $60,000) but Sardinians giggle when asked about the prohibition of their beloved cheese.

Investigate displays that their use could assist reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with animal farming and enable alleviate the weather disaster.
Roberto Flore, the Sardinian head of Skylab FoodLab, the food stuff technique change laboratory of the Specialized University of Denmark’s innovation hub, has extensive examined the concept of insect intake.
For a couple decades, he led the Nordic Food items Lab study and progress workforce — section of the 3-Michelin-starred NOMA cafe — attempting to figure out strategies to insert bugs into our food plan.

“Plenty of cultures affiliate the insect with an ingredient,” Flore claims. That reported, Sardinians want the cheese to the maggot and are generally horrified by the thought that individuals eat scorpions or crickets in Thailand.

Flore claims he’s traveled all-around the planet to research how diverse cultures strategy insects as meals and thinks that though psychological obstacles make it difficult to radically change ingesting practices, such use is widespread.

Open mind

Insect consumption is more commonplace in countries such as Thailand.

Insect intake is more commonplace in international locations these kinds of as Thailand.


“How do you determine edible food?” he says .”Each and every location of the planet has a distinct way to take in bugs.”

He’s confident that Sardinia’s delicacy is safe to consume.

“I feel that nobody has ever died consuming casu marzu. If they did, perhaps they ended up drunk. You know, when you try to eat it, you also consume lots of wine.”

Flore hopes casu marzu will before long get rid of its clandestine position and become a symbol of Sardinia — not because of its unconventional generation, but because it can be emblematic of other meals now vanishing due to the fact they you should not suit in with modern day mainstream preferences.

Islanders and scientists hope that the European Union will quickly rule in their favor.

Right up until then, anybody who desires to sample it will have to have to question all around when they get to Sardinia.

For people eager to suspend issues about what they’re having, it gives an authentic experience recalling a time when practically nothing was thrown away and when boundaries of what was edible or not had been less perfectly described.

Cheesemonger Murrocu suggests that, fittingly, locals preserve an open brain about the most effective way to try to eat casu marzu, but a handful of other regional treats have been known to help it slip down less complicated.

“We unfold the cheese on wet pane carasau, and we try to eat it,” he states. “But you can consume it as you want, as lengthy as there is some formaggio marcio and a great cannonau wine.”

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