Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is the EU’s certification system for regional foods. According to the European Commission, EU quality policy “aims to protect the names of specific products to promote their unique characteristics, linked to their geographical origin as well as traditional know-how.”
Everyone knows that champagne can only come from one region in France, but many of our other most beloved foods and drinks are among those safeguarded by the same protective rules and regulations. Here are three of the most delectable products that boast PDO status.
1. Pecorino cheese
If you’re unfamiliar with pecorino, then let’s get you caught up — pronto. Pecorino is a delightful Italian cheese from the region of Sardinia, known for its distinctive aroma and pleasantly sharp taste. Because of its rich cultural heritage, which dates back to Ancient Rome, pecorino is recognised and protected by strict European licensing laws.
Here in the UK, pecorino is somewhat overshadowed by the king of cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano. However, in Italy, pecorino cheese is a kitchen staple, favoured in classic pasta dishes like cacio e pepe, carbonara and pasta all’Amatriciana.
However, where Parmigiano Reggiano is made from 100% cow’s milk, pecorino is produced from sheep’s. In fact, according to the Italian food experts over at Pasta Evangelists, pecorino “is a catch-all term for any Italian cheese that’s made entirely from sheep’s milk – pecora being Italian for sheep.” However, in order for the cheese to qualify as pecorino, the sheep must be hand-reared on the lush, natural pastures of Lazio, Sardegna or Grosseto.
2. Scotch whisky
Uisge beatha, the old Gaelic name for whisky that translates to “water of life”, has been ingrained in Scottish culture for over 500 years. In fact, the first documented mention of whisky appeared in mediaeval tax records from 1494, with an entry in the Exchequer Rolls reading “Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae.” Fast-forward to the late 1700s, and whisky made from wheat and rye began to be sold by commercial distilleries.
Over the years, methods for whisky distillation have changed considerably. As of 2009, the Scottish Whisky Regulations define and control the manufacturing, labelling, packaging as well as promotion of Scotch whisky in the UK. There are five recognised regions — Lowland, Highland, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown — each renowned for producing Scotch with distinctive characteristics.
Today, whisky is distilled all over the world, from England (much to the amusement of the Scots) to as far away as Japan and Australia. However, according to PDO laws, to be classified as Scotch, the whisky must be made from water and malted barley, aged in oak barrels for at least three years and, perhaps most importantly, be wholly produced in Scotland.
3. Ibérico ham
Ibérico ham is renowned for being the best cured ham in the world. Unapologetically decadent, it is recognised for its majestic claret-colouring and complex, creamy taste. The meat boasts many unique qualities that set it apart from its competitors — namely its nutty flavour profile and melt-in-the-mouth texture.
To be classified as Ibérico, the ham must come from the Black Ibérican Pig, which lives in the Iberian Peninsula of Portugal and Spain. However, there are four subsequent classifications of the iconic breed: Black, Red, Green and White, descending in order of superiority. Black Ibérico, or pata negra, is the most prestigious — pigs that are 100 per cent Ibérico, with absolutely no cross-breeding.
After spending their days feeding on a diet of acorns, herbs and wild fruits, Black Ibérico pigs are ‘sacrificed’ and cured according to traditional methods — salted, rinsed and then hung for a minimum of 12 months — at room temperature in paper-thin slices.