We are in a square in the town, with a copper pan, and a young shepherd are the focus of the ancient tradition of scottone cheese in Rocca Priora.
The festival of the Scottone animates the cold Sunday in Rocca Priora, the town that occupies the highest peak of the Castelli Romani in a magical atmosphere. The scottone cheese is something different from the traditional cheese.
To learn the secrets of the scottone (made from sheep milk), I go to Caseficio where Damiano and his family live in symbiosis with nature. They walk away from the village, along a road that seems to cut the woods in half until the sun reappears. At one point, the view opens to the meadows and hills to an ideal gentle slope where they graze their flocks.
There I wait for Damiano Felici, the youngest of seven generations of shepherds, a modern person but linked to traditions. He welcomes me with a kindness of old times opening for me the doors of his world: his white coat, high boots and a joyful face as he proudly shows me the fruits of his labour.
He defines “the Last of the Mohicans”, as since childhood he has cultivated with a love for nature and for grazing. When others tried “comfortable trades” he chose to preserve tradition.
I have been fortunate to know Damiano for thirty years, we were children together and already then shared the same love for our country. I took this opportunity to let him tell me the tradition of scottone ‘roccapriorese’.
His story is a river in flood: his days start at 3.30 in the morning with milking sheep grazed solely on Rocca Priora meadows. Then he must process the milk that is brought to a temperature of 35/36°C to which is added the rennet, a natural enzyme which coagulates the milk. He then decides what to create: a fresh Caciotta or the delicious Pecorino Romano.
It is with the drainage from these processes that you can make the scottone! A whey largely without casein that is annealed to a temperature of 80°C and served in traditional earthenware when it is still hot.
The secret to a perfect result? The use of tin-plated copper pots for slow cooking, which continues when the fire is spent, and the addition of sprigs of fig to concentrate the ricotta whey. Now, enjoying the scottone becomes an emotional experience for me: through knowing the history of those who keep alive this tradition makes me appreciate its flavour even more!
Don’t forget!! Damiano Felici is waiting for you to taste his products in Rocca Priora and the thing of which you can be sure is that, to welcome you there, will be a special guy!
About the Interviewed:Damiano Felici
Young shepherd and 'dairyman' of Rocca Priora