You’ve heard about cheddar, mozzarella, brie… but have you ever heard of maggot-infested cheese?
Casu marzu literally means ‘rotten cheese’ and is made in Sardinia, Italy. It’s a regular wheel of pecorino cheese, but a fly known as the cheese fly is deliberately allowed to lay its eggs inside.
The maggots can be introduced by cutting a hole in the top of a hard wheel of pecorino and pouring in milk- literally an open invitation for flies to lay their eggs inside. But more often, a wheel of casu marzu is a happy accident that results from a random fly laying her eggs before the cheese rind is fully formed.
The cheese has been eaten for centuries in Sardinia. It indicates a history where they adapt to survive and eat whatever they can when supplies are limited. Maggots in the cheese? Oh, it’s actually not bad!
Casu marzu gets its unique flavour from the process whereby the maggots eat the cheese and excrete it out. The cheese then becomes soft, creamy, and spreadable. The taste is described as different, spicy, doughy, and delicious.
Many people are disgusted at the prospect of eating rotten cheese. The European Union health authorities decided that due to the danger of parasites, commercial production and sale was to be banned from the 1990s. Now, casu marzu is mostly produced at home. However, many Sardinians are protective of the cheese and regard it as part of their cultural heritage.
“Some people think the larvae will continue to live inside you,” a Sardinian native tells Great Big Story. “It’s not like that. Otherwise, we’d be full of maggots because we’ve eaten them for a lifetime.”