Venaco is a soft, washed rind raw ewe’s milk cheese produced by the shepherds in the mountains of Haute Corsica. Some producers use goat’s milk. The name of the cheese comes from the village of Venaco, in the centre of the island. Venaco cheese is in the shape of a cylinder, with a convex talon, with a diameter of 10 to 12 cm, a height of 3 to 5cm and a weight of 400 and 500g.
This cheese from Venaco is matured for 1 to 2 weeks until it is dry, then it is immersed in brine water, before being matured in a humid cheese cellar. Its washed rind is a red/orange colour, which gives the cheese its unique characteristics. The pate is soft and unctuous, and an ivory colour.
The production of Venaco is carried out entirely by farmers, today a dozen breeders are settled in the communities of the canton. Some others settled in the area traditionally populated in winter at the base of the valley of Tavignanu.
The fresh cheese (24 to 48 hours) is sometimes used in cooking and baking, but Venaco is generally consumed after being matured for 2 to 3 months. It is therefore essentially a cheese for the cheese platter. When matured for around 6 months, Venaco can be grated as a condiment for pasta and soups. Traditionally, the milk used for Venaco cheese is raw, whole milk which is curdled using natural rennet. The total time for the milk to curdle is around 1 hour 30 to 2 hours. The curds are cut into small grains the size of rice grains. After the curds have been rested, the whey is drained off. The curds are then stirred, before being put into moulds.
During the first few hours of the draining process, the fresh cheese is turned several times in the mould. The salting is done using dry salt, and is done twice; one side and the heel after the first 24 hours, and the second side the next day. After 5 or 6 days, the cheese is left to mature. During this process, the cheese is scrubbed each day by humid hands, and then it is turned. This process takes around 3 months until the heart of the cheese has ripened.