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Esoteric Cheese Focus:  Catalonia, Extremadura and Galicia, Spain

Can Pujol Nevat

Can
Pujol Nevat hails from a mountainous village near Barcelona in Catalonia,
Spain, and was created by the esteemed and self-taught cheesemaker Josep Cuixart
of Fromatges Can Pujol. Can Pujol Nevat was Cuixart’s first invention, and is a
pasteurized goat’s milk cheese with a thick coat of white Penicillium candidum mold (Nevat, comes from a Catalan word meaning
“snowy.”)

Cuixart
sources his milk from neighboring farms, and coagulates the curds within the
same day. The curds are drained in a cheesecloth bag, knotted to resemble a
snow-capped mountain. After being aged for 30 days, and its bloomy mold has
developed, the curd transforms into a more semi-soft texture, especially
towards the rind. Its interior retains a contrasting chalky core until
approximately 3 – 4 months of age.

(Pictured above: Josep and Antonia Cuixart)

Can
Pujol Nevat has a mushroomy aroma, mild, tangy flavor and a delicately sweet
finish. When pairing, it only seems natural to go with a Spanish beverage. Try
a Fino sherry or sparkling Cava alongside a handful of Marcona almonds.

Viejo Maestro

Viejo
Maestro, or “Old Master,” is produced by Quesos del Casar in Cáceres, which is
part of the Extremadura region of Spain, near the border of Portugal.

Viejo
Maestro begins with the pasteurized milk from the russet-colored Retinta Extremeña
goat, a breed that is unique to this area of Spain, and generally only found in
cheeses of the Extremadura. The Retinta Extremeña goat is known for its high
yield and exemplary casein content for artisan cheesemaking. However, over the
years, it has been endangered due to its dual use for meat and milk, as well as
being cross-bred with other varieties. The breed is now under conservation with
the Spanish government.

(Pictured above: the Retinta

Extremeña goat)

After
a minimum of 40 days aging, Viejo Maestro has a white moldy rind, turning
slightly straw-colored after 3 – 4 months of age. Its paste is bone-white and
semi-soft to firm with small eye formation. The texture is creamy on the
tongue, and has a varied flavor palette. Viejo Maestro begins sweet and milky, evolves
into notes of grass and herbs, and lingers with a floral goat’s milk finish.

Viejo
Maestro is coagulated with the ground seed of the wild thistle (Cynara cardunculus is part of the
artichoke family) which makes it suitable for vegetarian customers seeking
alternatives to traditional rennet cheeses. Sometimes, thistle rennet displays
a bitter or sour finish in the cheese. However, the cheesemakers at Quesos del
Casar keep these characteristics in check.

(Pictured above: Wild Thistle)

Pair
this cheese with dried apricots or a fig spread. This funky goat is great with white
wines such as Albariño or Verdejo or young reds from the Campo de Borja region
(often based on the unchallenging Grenache varietal.) Likewise, an Amontillado sherry
should work well.

Ulloa

Ulloa
is produced in the far northwestern region of Galicia, Spain, and is made with
pasteurized cow’s milk. Under its P.D.O. requirements, Ulloa is made with a
combination of milk from the Friesian, Rubia Gallega and Parda-Alpina cow
varieties, the latter of which are specific to northern Spain.

Quite
a young cheese, aged a minimum of 10 days, Ulloa is identified by its smooth,
waxy and pliable rind with an elastic and springy interior paste and fine eye
formation. Its aroma is milky, grassy and reminiscent of butter or yogurt.
However, the flavor is less lactic than expected. We taste more notes of
vanilla, cream and hazelnuts.

Ulloa
may intensify slightly over the following 2 – 3 months, and might naturally
develop sporadic molding on its rind. However, it is perfect as a dessert
cheese or when melted on toast at any stage. Pair with slices of membrillo or
fresh peaches and a glass of Moscato d’Asti or off-dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer.