Friday, 13 October 2023, 16:58
Cheese is one of the most complete, delicious and varied products found in cuisines all over the world. Almost every region of the world produces its own varieties, which means that the range of possibilities is as wide as its number of consumers. There are cheeses for every person, taste and moment.
The origin of cheese predates even written history itself and some sources place it in the Neolithic period, when animals began to be domesticated. Milk from cows, goats or sheep was kept in leather or porous earthenware containers, causing it to ferment quickly. Civilisations such as the Greeks and Romans ate it mixed with honey, oils, nuts and aromatic herbs, a habit that has continued to this day.
Regardless of the variety, not all cheeses are the same and it is important to choose those that are made without artificial additives in order to enjoy their properties, flavour and, of course, their aroma.
Artisan cheese is understood to be that which is made in the traditional way, with natural ingredients and following a production and maturing process that makes each piece unique.
Cheesemakers select the raw material by controlling the quality of the milk, usually cow's, goat's or sheep's milk, although it can also be buffalo milk, which is very common in Italian mozzarellas, or even camel's milk, which is typical of areas of Mauritania.
The rind is also a key element. In the case of artisan cheeses, they usually have mould spread unevenly across the rind, which is normal and the result of the natural fermentation process. This rind is mostly edible and provides a fundamental touch of flavour, intensifying the final bite.
Another distinguishing feature of artisan cheeses is that they are deeply rooted in the place where they are made, giving them their own personality and nuances related to their region.
Malaga has an important cheese-making tradition closely linked to the development of goat farming. The province is home to the Malaga Cheese Association, a non-profit organisation whose aim is to promote the cheeses produced in the different municipalities by creating a quality label that currently covers 80% of all Malaga cheese dairies.
As the association explains, Malaga's livestock farming systems have adapted to the different orography of the terrain, which has plains, mountains and coasts. This uniqueness means that each cheese is made according to the peculiarities and customs of the area, giving rise to a wide range both in quantity and quality, making the province the leading goat's milk producer in Andalucía.
The designation 'Queso de Málaga' is included in the Catalogue of Spanish Cheeses, stipulating that it is made from native Malaga or Payoya goat's milk (also known as 'montejaqueña') and with a detailed description of its main organoleptic and physico-chemical characteristics.
Production is usually carried out in small family cheese dairies which, in many cases, are linked to livestock farming. The work carried out by AGAMMA, a cooperative made up of more than 200 livestock farmers, which is also a recognised producer of artisan cheeses, is also fundamental.
All this generates more value to the cheeses and contributes to the creation of employment in the rural areas of the province.
Malaga cheeses have been at the top in prestigious competitions both at home and abroad for years. Last year World Cheese Awards, the most important international competition for this product, gave seven medals for three Malaga cheese dairies that use local goat's milk to make their cheeses. The most awarded was El Pinsapo, which received four awards, including gold for its Gran Reserva. AGAMMA received two awards for its products and La Cañada del Capitán received an award for its cured goat's cheese made with raw milk.
Similarly, this year the Antequera cheese dairy El Pastor del Torcal has won a Gold Medal at the prestigious Lyon 2023 International Competition with its raw goat's milk cheese in rosemary flavoured lard.
Another important event for cheesemakers is Gourmet Quesos, which last year awarded the prize for the best raw-milk cured goat's cheese to AGAMMA's Reserva Natural con Pimentón, while the semi-cured Montes de Málaga cheese from this dairy took home second place in the category of young goat's cheese made from pasteurised milk.
In the city, one of the key places to enjoy these products, not only the local but also national and international cheeses, is Picnik Artisan Cheese, a true temple to cheese. Located in Soho, the managers of Picnik, Cristian Mica and Aura Damián, are certified by Madrid's Chamber of Commerce as Cheese Experts and are undergoing further training to continue to expand their knowledge and provide the best customer service. They also offer a catering and gourmet events service.
Other establishments that have expanded their cheese ranges are La Chiquita, in Calle Gladiolos in Malaga; Jumago Calidad, in the Vialia shopping centre; La Despensa de Iñaki, in Calle Héroe de Sostoa, Malaga; and La Manzana de Oro, the legendary grocer's on Paseo de Reding, also in Malaga.
Cheeses can also be purchased at the dairies themselves, many of which offer various activities ranging from visits and tastings, as in the case of El Pastor del Valle in Alhaurín el Grande, to the 'goatherder and cheesemaker for a day' experience, an opportunity offered by Crestellina cheeses in Casares.
Queso Gran Reserva El Pinsapo
The aforementioned Gold winner at the World Cheese Awards 2022 is Agasur's top-of-the-range cheese. This old raw-milk goat's cheese is made using the traditional method and is matured for at least four months. The result is a product with an intense aroma and a deep, robust and spicy flavour.
Cured raw milk cheese wrapped in mango leaves from La Cañada del Capitán
This different cheese is wrapped in mango leaves, which gives it a characteristic freshness and sweetness that fuses with the intensity of traditional cured goat's cheese. It is a product with a great variety of nuances, which pays tribute to Malaga's tropical fruit crop and is perfect to be enjoyed on its own or accompanied with white or sweet wine.
Truffled goat's cheese by Flor Bermeja
Made from pasteurised goat's milk and grated truffle, this cheese is both intense and delicate, combining the flavour of goat's milk with the elegance of truffle and a spicy aftertaste that is pleasant to the palate.
Cured goat's cheese in Iberian lard (manteca). El Alcornocal
Goat's cheese cured in Iberian lard... nothing can go wrong. This delicacy is made in a totally traditional and artisan way without any additives or preservatives with a spectacular result in terms of flavour, texture and aroma.
Queso Curado Reserva Natural Al Pimentón. Quesos Montes de Málaga
Made with raw goat's milk and refined in verdial extra virgin olive oil, this cheese is a true gem. Its complex aroma offers hints of nuts and spices, while in the mouth it is creamy and moderately spicy with smoky notes of paprika.
Azul de Cabra by Quesos Argudo
This cheese is a marvel for lovers of 'blue' varieties, although it has its own identity that gives it creaminess and sweet nuances without losing the reference to the goat's milk with which it is made.
Crestellina organic fresh cheese
Those looking for lighter varieties should try this fresh organic cheese, made with milk from pastured Payoya goats using a traditional recipe handed down from generation to generation.
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