Classification of cheeses by type of pasta. Soft cheese and its P.D.O.s

Spain has a good catalog of soft cheeses, some made from raw milk and others from pasteurized milk.

In general, these cheeses are characterized by a slight and soft flavor and texture, with special and characteristic nuances and a soft paste that can be due to several reasons: There are those who do not have time to solidify since they are eaten fresh (cheeses Fresh); Those whose hardening process has been slowed down or prevented (mature soft-textured cheeses); Some where vigorous proteolysis (protein breakdown) has soared, causing cheeses to spread and flatten (cakes, or cheeses in the form of a disc); Or the cheese in which the solidified pasta has been re-fermented with the aid of milk, fresh rennet or distilled liquor.

– Fresh cheeses: Among fresh cheeses with D.O.P. We have cheeses that are made with sheep’s milk, cow or goat’s milk, or a mixture of them. Certain cheeses of this group are eaten almost exclusively in fresh, although at some times of the year with peaks of milk production can be allowed to mature. It is for example the case of the cheese of the Cebreiro, is a Galician cheese elaborated with milk of local cow (from Rubia Gallega, Alpine Brown and cows of race Frisona). The ripening period lasts about 10 days. These cheeses do not have a crust, although in the more mature cheeses, a thin coating can be discerned. Among its characteristics are its slightly acidic flavor and strong odor. The Cebreiro is characterized because it is the only Spanish cheese shaped like a chef’s hat.

– Soft cheeses matured with D.O.P .: They are milk cheeses from which they have matured to a certain extent but without allowing the paste to harden until it is firm. To achieve this, sometimes the curd is pressed gently, so that they retain some whey; This is what gives the cheese its unctuous texture. Ripening occurs when the temperature is low and the humidity levels are high, so that the bark does not dry out.
The D.O.P. Arzúa-Ulloa, is made with pasteurized cow’s milk, which matures for about two weeks. The bark is soft yellow and elastic. The pasta oozes a little fat that releases a delicate flavor. They are cylindrical, flat circular base. There is a special edition, the one made with cow’s milk fed with greens. This promotes the activity of the microbial flora whose intense proteolytic effect breaks down the protein chains, just as it happens in the Extremadura cakes of D.O.P. La Serena and El Casar. The only drawback of these cheeses is that they are not preserved well, so they are generally sold and consumed within the production area.
The D.O.P. Cheese Tetilla is another very characteristic Galician cheese. It takes its name, which means “small theta,” because of its sinus-like shape. The bark is smooth and so fine that hardly distinguishable from the paste, which is soft and unperforated, or sometimes randomly splashed with some eyes. Its very soft taste reveals its qualities when it melts in the mouth, and the aroma is delicately delicate.
D.O.P. Afuega’l Pitu is an interesting Asturian cheese. Its name refers to its curious property of adhering to the throat when being swallowed (by fire means “suffocation” and pitu means “throat” in the Asturian dialect). In the old days, coagulation was left to natural acidification, a method that is still used, although it is gradually being replaced by the use of commercial rennet. This cheese is difficult to classify because depending on its stage of development of the method of elaboration it can be qualified as a fresh cheese, soft cheese, or even a hard cheese. In shape, these cheeses are reminiscent of the fabric in which they are wrapped. The cylindrical shape dates back to when using flexible strips of chestnut wood it dries to form with them, creating the cylinder replicated today. It can be sold freshly made, when it has no crust and consists of a creamy dough. The taste is acid, pronounced and buttery to the palate. Within this type of cheeses exists a cheese fermented briefly, the variety to paprika; The action of certain molds turns this version of orange cheese by the addition of paprika and also loses its initial strength and part of its stickiness. The last variety owes its name to the part of Asturias in which it was made for the first time: Pimentonado de Aramo.
The Cheese of L’Alt Urgell and the Cerdanya is a cheese made from cow’s milk made in the Catalan Pyrenees. Plain, an extensive base and cylindrical. Each cheese must undergo ripening for at least two weeks, where moisture and temperature conditions make its crust sticky. The pasta is white or ivory colored, soft texture, creamy, smooth and pleasant, with a very well balanced aroma.

-Tortas: As they mature, all cheeses undergo certain biochemical processes in which their component substances play a key role in changing their texture, flavor, aroma and color, giving each one its own character. However, the results are not always predictable, and when the evolution of a cheese departs from the norm, its properties will not be as expected. It took many years to understand the phenomenon that occurs in cakes (flattened cylindrical form). At first when this process happened and the cheese became a cake was declared as “spoiled” and used by the shepherds, who hid from it to avoid being rebuked by the owner of the farm. Ironically, it was a landowner who finally tried one and not only liked it, but gave instructions that these cheeses were reserved for him. Its reputation grew, however, it was not until 1969 that the description of Torta del Casar was first included in the catalog of Spanish cheeses. Not only the Torta del Casar cheeses became well known, but they became something of a quality benchmark. The cause of these anomalies had been attributed to certain reasons; Grazing areas; The fact that the milk had coagulated at the time of the full moon; Genetic strains of sheep that were different from the rest, the use of thistle flower as rennet; and so on. While there may have been some truth in these theories, the real explanation was that in the spring, increased rainfall meant the abundance of wet grasses, which is populated by proteolytic microbial flora that contaminate milk. As the curd was only slightly acidic, this characteristic effect that breaks the chain of microorganisms creates the soft texture, aromas and flavors typical of these cheeses. Today, fermentation and ripening conditions can be controlled. El Casar, from which this cheese takes its name, is a municipality near Cáceres (Extremadura). It is also done in the villages of the Llanos region of the Sierra de Fuentes and Montánchez. This is a region of short, mild and long winters, hot summers – semi-steppe territory, where grazing is seasonal, in abundance only short periods occurring in spring. The soil is sand and granite and the vegetation is scarce but quite varied, and this contributes to the excellent quality of the milk. The cheeses are made with milk from Merino and entrefina sheep, whose milk production is low, but high quality, rich in fats and proteins. Cynara cardunculus (thistle flower) is used as the coagulant, and the cheese is cured for at least two months. The bark is leathery and yellow or ocher. The cream, spreads, reveals complex aromas and a rich flavor with a bitterness.

Cheese of the Serena is another cheese of this type more modern. Until 25 years ago, the cheese produced in this eastern part of Badajoz was a hard cheese similar to Manchego. Technological progress made what had been a seasonal product into a continuous process. Little by little, all the local cheesemakers began to make La Serena, popularly known as the Torta de la Serena. Made with milk from Merino sheep, the production is concentrated in spring as it is associated with childbirth. It is rich in nutrients and also coagulates with thistle flower.

The DOP Torta del Casar cheeses are enjoying such success that they replicate in other areas such as Los Pedroches (Córdoba, Andalusia) and Tierra de Barros (Badajoz, Extremadura) using sheep’s milk. In the Montes de Toledo and Sierra Norte de Sevilla, interesting results are also being achieved with goat’s milk, although the more complex structure of this type of milk makes the cheese making process less easy.

About the author

Montse Gonzalez