Galician cheeses and their pairings

In Galicia cow cheeses are mainly made. Some are welcome to one of the following designations of origin: Cebreiro, Arzúa Ulloa, Tetilla and San Simón da Costa. Each denomination presents some special characteristics that we expose next.


Cebreiro cheese is perhaps the least known of the four appellations of origin, but it is certainly the most attractive in the table of the Galician cheeses, for its shape of cook hat and its size, which can vary from A small cheese of 300 grams to a cheese of 2 kilos.
This cheese is made in O Cebreiro, a town of Lugo on the Camino de Santiago, following a tradition of yesteryear transmitted by the monks of Pedrafita. The process includes draining the cheese paste into cloth bags, before proceeding to salting and pressing in circular molds. With a soft texture and a unique and seductive flavor, this cheese can be greased, while preserving small pieces that transmit its acidity and a suggestive buttery note, derived from its fat content between 50-60%. Ideal to be accompanied with Honey Galicia and / or nuts. In addition to the fresher version, there is a cured version (45 days) firmer and yellow instead of white and where the milky consistency is more pronounced both in milkiness and acidity and with a spicier and blunt flavor. A true work of art. It can be accompanied with different types of breads and compare the sensations so varied that are perceived.


Arzúa-Ulloa cheese is the most elaborated cheese in Galicia (around 85-90% of its production) and although there are cheeses up to 3.5 kilos, the most typical is a circular piece of half a kilo, and some 5 centimeters high with rounded edges. Elaborated throughout the center of Galicia, this cheese originates from the area around the river Ulloa.
The skin is thin, clean and uniform yellow, and the paste is soft and creamy white and may have a frosty appearance, with small irregular eyes or absence of them.
In its lightest form cured (minimum six days) will suppurate and sink when cut, just like the unctuous ancestral country cheeses. However, a little more time in the refrigerator and it reaffirms very well, while remaining essentially its soft texture, because its fat content in dry matter is 38-50%. Although it is usually done with pasteurized milk, there are several producers who use raw milk. Its taste is sweet and creamy, with very little salt. It has a point of acidity, but this is somehow below the notes of milk and yogurt. Sometimes in spring, when cows have eaten stems of nabiza, they tend to proteolize themselves, giving rise to breakage of the chains, becoming fluid, to the point of reaching an unctuous similarity to the cakes of Casar and La Serena. In the heavier ones, a pinch of butteriness prevails, having a slight nutty taste without overlapping its creaminess, a creaminess that makes it ideal for hot melt or pizza or simply toast bread, both alone With quince. A cheese that perfectly balances any cheese board, for its visual appearance, taste and texture.
A recognized subcategory of its D.O.P. Is the Arzúa-Ulloa of “Granxa” (Farm) used for cheeses made entirely from milk produced on a farm. There is also a variety, the cured Arzúa-Ulloa, long curing (minimum six months) and is only produced by only a few processors and popularly known as “chin of the nabiza” or “chin of the year” given that can be maintained twelve months In consumption conditions and whose processing process comes from what was traditionally used in the past, letting the cheese ripen in the hórreo (grain stores) that bordered on rural houses, where humidity and temperature were stable. With more salt content and minimum fat content of 65% dry matter, a darker color both inside and out and a more solid texture and a much more dominant presence on the palate, with strong notes of butter (with a stale edge And even a touch of vanilla recalling the most famous of Italian cheeses which may explain its important development in the international market, with exports to Japan, the United States, Canada, China and Japan. Russia and that has led to a great industrialization, although there are still cheese factories in rural Galicia that make these cheeses with their local milk and traditional methods as always.


Another cheese produced on a large scale in Galicia is the Tetilla, so named because its suggestive shape recalls the slightly shaped breast of a woman and derives from the fact that the curds were traditionally hung in bags of muslin, which leads to the characteristic shape Conical
During its processing, the curd is cut into large grains and pressed lightly. Curing is for a minimum of seven days, but typically between 10 and 30, and the resulting product has a dry matter fat content of 45-50%. It has a clean, firm surface, elastic yellow skin and at least 3 mm thick. The interior is compact, uniform and soft for relatively soft, depending on curing, with few or no eyes (which should be small), and a color between ivory and light yellow. Its flavor is soft and milky, with very little salt, little or no acidity and very faint notes of butter. It is a versatile cheese for cooking, a use that is given especially when it is exported, since the curing of one or two weeks of curing to give stability during the transport (that surpasses the 30 days to some countries like USA) modifies its characteristics. It is sold in pieces weighing between 500 grams and 1.5 kilos, although the most common are those of one kilo. Suitable to combine with any flavor, although a touch of sweet makes its flavor is enhanced, so it goes very well with quince sweet and especially with dried apricots.


The San Simón da Costa is also a conical shaped cheese but with a rounded top. It is sold in large pieces (800 grams to 1.5 kg) and also smaller (400-800 grams) called buffoon, much more attractive visually.
Although like the other Galician cheeses pasteurized cow’s milk is used, a few producers produce raw milk cheese.
The origin of this cheese dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was used to pay feudal taxes and tithes. Because milk production declined in winter, this cheese was cured, especially in isolated villages. During its production the serum is extracted by pressing the curd a longer time than in other Galician cheeses and the curing extends between 30 and 45 days, depending on the size. It is common practice to smoke using birch bark, which gives it that characteristic aftertaste. Its fat content in dry matter is 40-60%.
Its skin is smooth, waxy, and hard, and depending on the degree of smoking it can have an attractive brown color. The pasta is creamy yellow, firm and unlike the other Galician cheeses it is cut without problems and presents small eyes from time to time. Of a slightly creamy texture, its flavor is persistent, slightly salty and with a delicate balance of smoke and a pinch of spice. Its subtle smoke with a nutty taste, especially hazelnuts makes it an ideal cheese to consume only with a red wine or a canape, although it also allows other culinary uses.


About the author

Montse Gonzalez