Casu Martzu: A Cheese Unlike Any Other

To say the infamous yet iconic casu martzu is a divisive cheese is an understatement. Read on to learn more about this unique Italian cheese and why people either love it or hate it.

History of Casu Martzu

Casu martzu, sometimes spelled casu marzu, is believed to have been discovered centuries ago. Due to a lack of food, poor Sardinians were forced to eat cheese that had spoiled and were surprised to find it had an appealing flavor.

Because it’s difficult to gauge the safety of the cheese, casu martzu has been banned in the EU market since 2002. However, Sardinian natives continue to produce the delicacy for themselves. 

Taste and Texture of Casu Martzu

Casu martzu is pungent and acidic with a sharp spiciness and a soft, spreadable texture. Though its flavor is difficult to replicate, some have likened it to aged gorgonzola with black pepper.

Image Credit: Flickr user WyldKyss ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

How Casu Martzu is Made

Casu martzu is made by letting cheese flies lay their eggs in pecorino cheese. Once the larvae have hatched, they eat through the cheese and their digestive enzymes transform it into soft and spreadable casu martzu.

After about 2-3 months, drops of liquid known as làgrima come out of the rind, indicating that the cheese is ready to eat.

Eating Casu Martzu

The most important thing to remember about casu martzu is that it’s unsafe to eat if the maggots have died. This signifies that the cheese has gone bad. The general exception to this rule is if they were killed purposefully, right before consuming.

Image Credit: Flickr user SusieWyshak ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

The traditional way to enjoy casu martzu is with Sardinian flatbread, known as pane carasau, and a full-bodied red wine. The maggots in the cheese tend to leap off, so shield the cheese with your hand to protect your eyes. If you’d prefer to enjoy it without the maggots, you can also seal the cheese in a paper bag to kill them through oxygen deprivation. You’ll know it’s ready to eat when the sound of the maggots jumping around in the bag stops.

Say what you will about casu martzu, but eating it is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Feature Image: Flickr user Mike Towber ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

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