“U casgiu” (cheese in the Corsican language) is a mainstay of the region and one of the delicacies most appreciated by locals and travellers alike. A genuine product of ancestral know-how. Once known as the shepherds’ island, Corsica has inherited a strong cheese-making tradition.
Deep in the scrubland, goats and sheep share the dense, rich vegetation, enabling local producers to craft a wide variety of cheeses. This means that part of Corsica’s cultural heritage will be on your plate when you try this tasty speciality.
What to eat in Corsica?
Your stay in Corsica is an ideal opportunity to delve into its cuisine and sample some of the local favourites. Both savoury and sweet, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
If you are mad about charcuterie, this is the place for you! The choice is yours: lonzu, coppa, saucisson, prisuttu… And not forgetting figatellu, a dried sausage made from pig’s liver, the real hallmark of the island’s charcuterie. Traditionally smoked over chestnut wood, it is eaten only in winter served inside a plain sandwich.
Sample a wealth of different dishes when you go out for a meal or do your shopping at the market: cannelloni with brocciu, chestnut flour pulenta, Aziminu (Corsican bouillabaisse), aubergines à la bonifacienne… It’s hard to get more typical than stufatu, for example. This slow-cooked stew is made with manzo beef, panzetta (smoked bacon), tomato paste, red wine, onions, black olives and bay leaves.
For a sweet treat, try desserts made with Brocciu or chestnut flour, including flan, fondant, fritters and crème brulée. To accompany your coffee, tickle your taste buds with biscuits like Canistrelli, frappes and finuchjetti.
Not forgetting Corsican honey, olive oil, preserves, nougat, myrtle liqueur, beer and Corsican wine!
How to pick a Corsican cheese
Cheese is one of the cornerstones of Corsican cooking. Many cheesemakers sell their own produce. The island’s temperate, humid climate makes for good, tasty, and high-quality cheeses. The local vegetation is rich and dense. Goats and ewes feed on it, which produces top-quality, high-protein milk. This, combined with the ancestral expertise of the producers, is guaranteed to deliver the great taste of traditional Corsican cheese.
There are five main cheese families in Corsica, spread over five different regions.
- “Bastilicacciu”, or Bastelicacci, is produced in the south-west, in the Ajaccio region. A mild, creamy and soft cheese resembling the famous Camembert. It can be easily spotted by its blue-grey rind. As time passes, the more it dries out, the stronger it becomes.
- “Casgiu Sartinesu”, or Sartenais, found in the south of the island, in the Sartène region. This is a raw pressed cheese, smoked over a chestnut wood fire. Its distinctive feature is its light brown or even orange rind. Like tomme cheese, it can be aged for a long time without losing any of its flavour.
- “Casgiu Venachese”, or Vénacais, a variety found on the east coast. This is a reasonably strong soft cheese, allowing you to enjoy the longer maturing process without it being too intense on the palate. It can be recognised by its “sticky” rind, usually yellow-orange in colour. It has been likened to Pont l’Evêque.
- “Niulincu”, or Niolu, from Haute-Corse, in the Niolo region near Saint-Florent, in the centre of the island. This cheese has a strong character and owes its spiciness to the high moisture levels in the cellars where it was matured. Consumers be warned!
- “Calizanincu”, or Vieux Calenzana, is found in the Balagne region, near Calvi, in the north-west of the island. A sharp cheese with a dry texture, ripened for several months. The unique potency of this cheese makes it a rare experience, as it is difficult to make and requires special expertise.
Typical Corsican cheeses
These cheeses have been crafted from generation to generation paying the utmost respect to Corsican tradition. Here are a few examples:
- Brocciu : Corsica’s national cheese, originally from the mountains, is a smooth and creamy cottage cheese. Made from whey, it is usually eaten chilled at the end of a meal paired with a marmalade or jam, sugar or honey, It can also be enjoyed as a savoury starter or main course with a slice of bread and a salad, or cooked as part of an omelette or fiadone, the signature dessert.
- Ewe’s milk cheese: this cheese has a soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture.
- Ewe’s milk Tomme: a favourite in Corsica, often eaten in sandwiches, bruschettas and even as a raclette cheese.
- Fresh goat’s cheese used to make migliacci, a little-known traditional recipe from time immemorial. These are fresh cheese patties cooked on chestnut leaves in a wood-fired oven.
Each of these cheeses can be seasoned with dried fruit, hazelnuts and aromatic herbs typical of the Corsican maquis, used to coat the cheese. Not forgetting “Casgiu Merzu”, which translates as “rotten cheese”. As its name suggests, it is a putrid cheese, aged for a very long time by producers to the point where the maggots of the Piophila fly develop. It is therefore extremely strong and only the boldest will appreciate it.
Where to buy Corsican cheeses
- Artisanal cheesemongers / Directly from producers: come and meet them for a tasting and share your experience. A genuinely insightful opportunity.
- At local markets: meet the producers who will whet your appetite by sampling their cheeses.
- Groceries: where only Corsican cheese is stocked. Feel free to ask for advice based on your preferences.
- At the supermarket: choose from a wide range of cheeses.
My top addresses
- La crèmerie impériale in Ajaccio
- U Core Paesanu in Porto Vecchio
- Fromagerie Ottavi in Ghisonnacia
- U Muntagnolu in Bastia.
Corsica’s cheese season
There’s no specific time of year to enjoy a good bite of Corsican cheese! Just remember that the brocciu season ends just before the peak of the summer heat, in June, when the ewes stop lactating. It’s time for summer grazing, when the sheep go to rest in the shade of the mountains until they are ready to return in November.
Follow the roads of the Isle of Beauty while inhaling the sweet scent of the maquis, and set off on a gastronomic adventure! You’ll meet dedicated producers who’ll tell you their stories as you taste their delicious wares. Cheese in Corsica is more than a skill, it’s a tradition, and each has its own character. So, do you prefer goat’s milk or ewe’s milk? Either way, bon apetitu !