The Hidden Cheese Heaven
It could of course just be me. Even though I don’t think so. I am above average interested in cheese and was not aware of the hidden cheese heaven Portugal is. Know they make cheese here, yes, but not so much, and not that so much is from raw milk.
Hail the supermarkets
The supermarkets is full of regional raw milk cheese. Many artisan, though not all. A majority from ewe’s milk and some from cow. Goat is more rare, mostly pasteurized, even though I managed to find one raw. But there are a few blends blends with goat milk.
Some of the ewe milk cheese is hard, some is firm to semi firm and quite a few are spoonable.
Ewe’s milk cheese in majority
Portugal seems to be the country where production of ewe’s milk cheese is most widespread. Comes in different sizes, but they’re all rounds. Unless they are treated with oil and paprika powder the rinds are generally of beige color. Hard and non-edible. I do not know if it is a washed rind, it might seem so, but the texture is a bit plasticky.
It is hard to know if the cheese is farmstead, artisanal, cooperative or industrial. Partly because of the language of course, I do not speak portuguese, but it also seems like most of the cheese is consumed locally and therefore there is not so much need for any international sites. I need to do some more research in other words.
The best cow’s milk cheese comes from the Azores
So they make traditional firm cow’s milk cheese as well. And the best comes from the islands, which in this case is the Azores. Quite far into the Atlantic, west of Portugal. Queijo São Jorge DOP is the most famous. Comes in at least two versions; four and seven months of maturity. An alternative is the Topo Queijo curado, also from raw cow’s milk, but without the DOP certification.
I’ll come back to the actual tasting, later.
The hidden cheese heaven
Having explored the portuguese cheese marked for a good week or so, I am very positively surprised and have no doubt this is the hidden cheese heaven. So much excellent cheese, and so readily available.
I find it natural to drink a white to these cheeses, though not Vinho Verde as they are too crisp, but Duoro and Alentejo whites will work very well. Since we’re in Portugal, Port is a good choice as well. Works well with most cheese.