The Autonomous Community of Asturias is in the North of Spain and is situated with Galicia at the west, the Bay of Biscay in the north and Castilla y Leon to the south. There are quaint seaside towns and villages, rivers running through fertile meadows and mountainous peaks as the backdrop to inland villages and townships and with its temperate climate it is not the stereotypical Spanish destination. The Province of Asturias is the ideal destination for those who really want to experience Spanish culture as it has managed to evade mass tourism and has kept an age old Spanish charm and retained its individual culture. The economies backbone is dominated by farming, crop harvesting, fishing and of course for the purposes of this investigation they obviously produce great cheese...
The problem with an Asturias cheeseboard, albeit a great problem for cheese lovers is that the region produces the most variety of cheese compared to other provinces in Spain. There are more than 50 different cheeses to choose from so your Asturias Cheeseboard could become very weighty. We thought we would start with a list before telling you which ones we would choose here at Eat Play Stay Spain for our Asturias Cheeseboard so brace yourselves it’s a lengthy list of cheese.
Here we go;
See what we mean? Now we are not complaining, Asturias is a cheese lovers heaven so the thing with this cheeseboard is its either going to be a banquet of a board or a selection of your favourites. So here are our choices for Eat Play Stay Spains Asturias Cheeseboard.
Queso de Cabrales D.O.P
Whichever cheese you choose for yours I always think if there is a D.O.P cheese from a region then it should be included so the first and most well-known cheese from Asturias is the Queso de Cabrales D.O.P Cabrales is an artisan cheese and produced by the dairy farmers in the county of its namesake. To give you a picture of Cabrales it is situated in the Picos de Europa, a mountain range where the Cantabrian brown bear roams freely and bear watching is a hobby with skiing in the winter months being a pastime, so you can picture how stunningly breath-taking the region is. Cabrales is a natural cheese made from cow, sheep and goats milk. The animals graze on the high pastures in the mountains and the cheese is then matured in natural limestone caves. The caves have an environment that grow penicullium mould naturally and these cultures develop within the cheese which gives them the bluey green veins. It is often used in sauces and for melting over meats so it is a very versatile product. Queso de Cabrales is very strong in taste, creamy and firm with a uniquely interesting flavour that sits well on its own with chunks of fresh bread or with a plate of fruit. Cabrales D.O.P has a strong, penetrating aroma and a sharp, acidic, slightly salty taste so if this is on your Asturias Cheeseboard be sure to add some fresh figs and Spanish salami or chorizo to the board, and of course the wine to accompany, well for this one my choice would be a glass of port. Ready for our second cheese?
Queso de La Peral
Another Blue Cheese I can hear you saying? The thing with blue cheese is you either love it or hate it and for those who think they don't like it you may be very surprised. Just because you think you don't like blue cheese shouldn't stop you trying them as they are all individual and there will always be one you fall in love with. On the otherhand you may adore their distinct flavour so having more than one on the board is a real treat to compare them. The great thing about a cheeseboard is they are wonderful for experimenting and trying cheeses you would not ordinarily consider and Queso La Peral is a cheese unlike any other. This cheese has won a number of awards and whilst strong in taste is not as intense or as overpowering as Queso de Cabrales D.O.P and is speckled with blue in comparison to the blue veins of its counterpart. The cheese is very creamy and buttery with a mushroom taste on the palate becoming slightly spicey with age. This is a cows cheese so has a totally different taste to Cabrales. The milk however is mixed with sheeps cream giving it a really creamy and disctict flavour. Not a blue cheese lover? You will be after this one. The cheese is made in the mountain village of La Peral which is located just a 20 minute drive to the picturesque seaside town of San Juan de la Arena, so mountains, beautiful beaches and green pastures are in abundance, sea air and mountain air combined make for a wonderful environment for the dairy animals whose milk produces this delightful cheese... As for the wine with Queso de La Peral the cheese is slightly salty so pairs really well with with a good sherry.
There are 4 D.O.P cheeses from Asturias, as you can see from the list, and I have another one on my board, Queso Casín D.O.P. This cheese is produced by hand and we love it here at Eat Play Stay Spain due to its historical heritage. The first documents that mention this cheese date back to the 13th Century. Legend has it that the first King of the Asturias, Don Pelayo was given a cheese that was so large that a horse and cart had to be used to transport it. The cheese was allegedly made by the people of Caso after the battle of Covadonga in 722AD. The battle was fought between the Moors and the Christians and the cheese given to the King as a gift, the legend states that he loved the cheese so much that the people of Caso were granted nobility status. The cheese is still so loved that it is celebrated on the last weekend each year in August with the Festival of Queso Casin. Queso Casín D.O.P is still produced by hand today in Caso and is made from whole, unpasteurised cow’s milk. The cheese is cylindrical in shape and the rind has the stamp of the producer as well as a floral pattern. The cheese has a strong smell, is crumbly and has the texture of butter in the mouth. Depending on the production process the cheese can be quite bitter on the palate and for some is an aquired taste, however if the legend of Don Pelayo is to be believed it is a great story for any cheeseboard. This cheese goes really with quince Jam, and to stay authentic try a jar of Paiarrop Membrillo Quince Paste from www.brindisa.com
Queso de Canal de Ciercos
The next cheese on my Asturias Cheeseboard is Queso de Canal de Ciercos. For me this cheese in an absolute must for my board. An artisan cheese that has the delightful scent of dried grass, you can't help but picture the dairy animals grazing in the pastures and on the mountainsides. The cheese can vary in taste, this is because it is either made from pasteurised cows’ milk from San Esteban de Cuñaba but can be also made with sheep or goat's milk. Whichever milk it is produced from it will be a pale yellow with tiny holes and a darker yellow rind. For me this cheese pairs really well with a crisp glass of Asturias cider and dried fruits.
Queso de El Carballo
Queso de El Carballo is also a much welcomed addition on my Asturias Cheeseboard, especially if I can get the cheese that has hazelnuts inside. This one is really nice with a cold glass of cava or a sweet sherry depending on your mood and the weather. The cheese is an absolute delight and so mourish it is always a hit with everyone. It leaves a taste of spice on the palate and is another unpasteurised cows’ milk cheese. Queso de El Carballo is left to mature for a minimum of 2 months and is a gorgeous young queso.
With so many cheeses to choose from any Asturias Cheeseboard can be a bit of a dilemma, but what a great dilemma to be in. Let your mood decide and experiment with this board or pick your favourites, it will always be a winner whichever ones you select. With 51 cheeses in the list it's one a week to sample, if you started on January 1st you would have your favourites selected for a Christmas Asturias Cheeseboard, now there is a thought. Picture the mountains covered in snow with trails of bear footprints as they wander through this idyllic terrain, the cheeses in the caves and the dairy cattle, sheep and goats huddled together in their shelters and you have a picture perfect Christmas card right there... Enjoy...