Cheese areas of Extremadura
Legend has it that a shepherd, after milking his sheep and drinking milk from a bowl, lay in the shade of a tree and fell asleep there. We do not know what dreams accompanied his rest, but when he woke up, when he took his rough bowl he discovered that some flowers had fallen in it, and together with the milk that he had left in it and that had settled, a paste had been formed. He tasted it and found it exquisite.
Recorrer la Ruta del Queso es RECORRER EXTREMADURA
The protagonist of this miracle, which transforms milk into succulent cream, is the flower that grows on wild thistle, although perhaps we are being unfair if we do not recognise the crucial role of the excellent Merino sheep's milk in this story; or perhaps it was the lucky shepherd who simply dreamed of this creamy whim.
From north to south and from east to west, this land witnesses this quiet ritual, far from that fortunate pastor. Extremadura seems to be the whimsical only scenario where such a delicacy could be made.
Welcome to Extremadura, a land of cheese and its craftsmen, a land that displays at every step a colossal landscape, surprising and exuberant; a region as generous and profuse in landscapes as in flavours, because behind each flavour there is a story awaiting to be whispered.
Undoubtedly, one of the most brilliant chapters of our gastronomy is that written every day by the excellent sheep and goat cheeses that tell you about the unselfish work of our cheese masters and the goodness of the exceptional pastures that, like a mosaic, draw an incomparable gastronomic landscape. A commitment to tradition and craftsmanship is the binomial that is behind the origin of the unique taste of our cheeses and tortas, and which has resulted in a recognition in its own right: Torta del Casar, Queso de la Serena and Queso Ibores, our three PDOs.
But cheese in Extremadura goes beyond these three PDO; and we could say that the cheese culture reaches every corner of the region.
With each step in this route, eager travellers will discover that each cheese retains a part of the essence of every corner of this land. Entering this route means immersing yourselves into our customs, a journey to tradition that will bring you closer to the work of those who day after day strive to give shape to flavour, and in Extremadura, it is shaped like cheese. Travelling the Cheese Route means discovering Extremadura.
From the cheeses of La Vera, where goats graze in their fertile valleys sheltered by the Sierra de Gredos, in one of the greenest and richest areas of the region, to the cheeses of La Siberia, in the north-eastern end of the province of Badajoz, where verata goats also graze to produce one of the most characteristic cheeses in the region, travellers will be able to find cheeses as genuine as Quesailla, made with raw goat's milk, mixed coagulation and hand-pressed, followed by two months of ripening submerged in olive oil. This cheese is made from the Sierra de San Pedro to the Sierra de Jerez, in the regions of Alburquerque and Olivenza.
From Las Vegas de Coria, west of the province of Cáceres, to Portuguese lands, we find another of the region's most traditional cheese-making areas, where cheeses have acquired a well-deserved reputation in recent years. It is the municipality of Acehúche that gives its name to this delicacy. In this region of goatherds, good climate and fertile lands surrounded by mountains and irrigated by the river Alagón are behind the quality and uniqueness of their milk.
Not far from there, a little further north, you will find the regions of Gata-Hurdes. There in the western foothills of the Sierra de Gredos, in a lush natural environment favoured by a temperate and rainy climate, you will find yet another example of the excellent goat cheeses that are made in the region. It is made with retinta goats raw milk and in many cases, is dipped in olive oil for preservation.
In the Peneplain of Trujillo-Cáceres and Las Vegas de Coria, in the province of Cáceres, a sheep's cheese is made from the merino trunk, which differs from the Torta in the fact that it does not use vegetable rennet. The rest of the preparation process has been maintained throughout the centuries. The result is a hard paste cheese with great flavour and creamy texture.
In Villafranca de los Barros a high-quality cheese is produced, which, like others in the region, uses the wild thistle flower (Cynara Cardunculus) for its coagulation. This way you get the characteristic soft and creamy cheese.
The list of towns where local cheese production has a long tradition sprinkles the entire Extremadura geography and abound in towns such as Carbajo, a village with great cheese tradition in the foothills of the Sierra de San Pedro where goat, sheep and mixed cheese is made and gives us such characteristic products as the Sudao, made with raw goat's milk and matured with Iberian pork lard in a humid environment. Not far from there, in the town of Alburquerque, a wide range of goat cheeses are produced in the town of Alburquerque, which will delight the most demanding palates: goat cheese with Iberian ham, goat cheese with boletus or with olives are some of the surprising creations that we can find there.
The excellent quality and variety of cheeses that the region delights us with, tells you about the importance of the preparation of these delicacies in the economy of Extremadura and also tells you about the work of artisan cheese-makers who have managed to keep the tradition alive and the methods of production they have inherited from their ancestors.
For now, there are many cheeses and towns that we have not mentioned, but discovering them and letting them surprise you is one of the incentives that we hope will make the journey we are proposing more exciting, so for now we leave this in the hands of the eager diner, always in search of new sensations and new flavours.
We will succumb to the temptation of tasting these earthly pleasures; CHEESE is tenderness at the table, a kiss to the mouth, tradition in the hands of the artisan. Extremadura is cheese, and there is no will strong enough to resist this gastronomic festival. It is best to give in to desire.