Serra da Estrela

Commonly regarded as Portugal’s best cheese. And Serra da Estrela is really a treat if you can stand a slight hint of barn yard. The older it gets, the richer it smells. This cheese is on the soft side, but gets firmer with age. Use a spoon for the young ones and knife for the mature. From raw ewe’s milk.

What to eat in Portugal

As the name indicates it’s from the Estrela mountains, inland in the mid to northern part of Portugal. There are a few things you have to do in Portugal; having ewe’s milk cheese in general and Serra da Estrela in particular, is one of them. Eating Bacalhau one way or the other, and there are plenty of ways, is another. Drinking Port as well, which of course you can pair with Serra da Estrela.

Queijo Serra da Estrela DOP
Queijo Serra da Estrela DOP

Washed rind

I was very curious about the rind, because I found it differed from most other cheese I have had. Reminded me of rubber. Mostly I cut it off, but tested its edibility of course, and surprise, I am still around. I have later found out the rind is washed. Beige color, and some are on the hard side, in which case you should definitely cut away unless you want to pay your dentist a visit, while the soft rinds are perfectly edible. But the paste is so good there’s no need to eat the rind. The rind is also quite different from the washed styles you find in France, which I quite frequently eat.

Queijo Serra da Estrela DOP
Queijo Serra da Estrela DOP

Acidity and herbs

In addition to the taste of barn there is a distinct hint of acidity and herbs from the wild fodder they find up in the mountains.

To drink

This may vary with the age of the cheese. Normally it is aged for a minimum of 35 days and at that age it is rather creamy and calls for a lighter white without too much complexity. As the cheese matures, it requires more body in the wine. I am on the white side as I find them way more suitable than reds. A favorite among the whites is Américo from the Dão. It has enough body to match the Serra da Estrela Velho (aged). A good Port will always work, and since this is regarded the best Portuguese cheese you should choose a sincerely good vintage Port to go with it.

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