Sunday, November 6, 2011

Portuguese Cheeses 2nd Group

Portugal – given its continental narrowness – cannot pride itself of having good pastures, especially for larger stock… However, in the areas where the high grass is scarce, the goats and the sheep reign. The Azores is quite another story. There, on the island of São Miguel, and on the other blessed island “her ladyship the cow” is empress. That is, the true dairy cow, not the “marcolina cow” in the paradigmatic translation of “vacum cleaner” done by some, touched by the American greatness of local emigration…
Therefore, and also due to the poverty of the soil, herd tending has always been present in the Lusian lands, as a very old livelihood, quite often supplementing in a sustainable manner, avant la letter, the tilling of the soil, while the payment for the “pasture” that fed the furry or woolly cattle that returned the natural manure to the earth was negotiated between farmers and shepherds. It is quite obvious that in herd land the cheese is the king. Cheese is perhaps the oldest man made processed food. After that hunting, fishing and fruit and vegetable collecting times were bygone, and after man had learned to master the secret of fire, cheese appeared. Historic documents place its genesis in the valley between two rivers and in Egypt, around 3500 B.C. In Portugal, cheese has certainly been produced since Neolithic times. Cheese making, whichever the cheese, is an art. At least that is the case with hand-made cheese, intuitively worked by experienced hands, where knowledge is passed down from the mother to the shepherd’s daughter who attentively follows every details: the temperature of the hand, the curdling time, the turning of the cheeses and the changing of the bands, the pastures of broom or other graminaceous plants of the higher lands which greatly influence the flavour of the final product.
As a tribute to the shepherds, to their wives and to all the people who still work in the traditional Portuguese cheese-dairies, we have made this commemorative stamp issue, made up of two series, portraying all the Lusitanian cheeses with POD and geographical indication (GI), leaving the description of the cheeses to Master José Quitério.

Serra da Estrela cheese PDO
Made of pure, raw sheep’s milk, of the Bordaleira race, Serra da Estrela variety, curdled with cardoon, aged between 30 to 45 days (for the soft cheese). Cylindrical shape, about 6 cm high and 15 in diameter and weighing between 300 and 1500 g. Ivory coloured paste, soft, creamy, “blind” or with a few small holes, exquisite flavour, slightly acidulated. The legally defined area of production, which better opinions considered to be excessive, covers the municipalities of Carregal do Sal, Celorico da Beira, Fornos de Algodres, Gouveia, Mangualde, Manteigas, Nelas, Oliveira do Hospital, Penalva do Castelo and Seia, and a few administrative parishes in the municipalities of Aguiar da Beira, Arganil, Covilhã, Guarda, Tábua, Tondela, Trancoso and Viseu, in the centre-north of Portugal.

Rabaçal cheese PDO
Made from sheep’s and goat’s milk, in the ideal proportion of 75% of the first to 25% of the second, raw, curdled with animal rennet, it is aged for at least three weeks. Cylindrical shape, about 5 cm high and 12 cm in diameter, it weighs between 300 and 500 g. Whitish-unpolished paste, semi-hard, with little or no holes, it has a particular flavour. The production area is mostly concentrated in the old village of Rabaçal (Penela municipality, Coimbra district) and a few neighbouring villages. The certificate that instituted the POD includes the municipalities of Alvaiázere, Ansião, Condeixa-a-Nova, Penela, Pombal and Soure, in the centre of Portugal.

Azeitão cheese PDO
Made from the milk of the Bordaleira sheep race, sub-race Saloia (in present times from other imported races as well), raw, curdled with cardoon, three weeks normal aging time. Shaped as small cylinders – 5 cm high, 8 cm in diameter –, weighing in average between 250 to 300 g (smaller ones are now appearing on the market). Pale-yellow or whitish paste, soft, creamy, with a stronger milky taste than the Serra da Estrela cheese (from which it descends). The production area established by law stretches to the municipalities of Palmela, Sesimbra and Setúbal, in the Lisbon region.

Cabra Transmontano cheese PDO
Made from raw goat’s milk of the Serrana race, curdled with animal rennet, aged during two months at least. Cylindrical shape, 4 to 6 cm high and 12 to 15 cm in diameter, weighing between 600 and 900 g. Hard whitish “blind” paste that has the characteristic flavour of goat’s cheese and a light peppery touch. Produced in the municipalities of Âlfandega da Fé, Carrazeda de Ansiães, Freixo de Espada à Cinta, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Mirandela, Mogadouro, Torre de Moncorvo and Vila Flor (Bragança district), as well as Murça and Valpaços (Vila Real district), located in the north-east of Portugal.

São Jorge cheese PDO
Made of raw cow’s milk curdled with animal rennet. Shaped as a sort of wheel-type big cylinder between 10 to 15 cm high, its diameter varies between 25 and 35 cm and its weight between 8 to 12 kg. Hard, straw-yellow paste with many tiny irregular holes, brittle, with an individual flavour and slightly spicy touch. Minimum aging three month. The production area is that of the whole Island of São Jorge, Azores

Gabinete de Planeamento e Políticas - Direcção de Serviços das Fileiras Agro Alimentares - Ministério da Agricultura; Associação de Produtores de Queijos do Distrito de Castelo Branco (Queijo de Castelo Branco DOP); Cooperativa de Produtores de Queijos da Beira baixa Natur - al - Carnes (Queijo de Niza DOP); QUEITEQ - Cooperativa de Produtores de Leite de Ovinos da Terra Quente (Queijo Terrincho DOP); Queijaria Artesanal, de Jaime Silva Lopes, Monte da Pedra da Légua, Alcains

Technical Details
Date of Issue: 2 March 2011
Values: stamps of €0,32, €0,47, €0,68, €0,80 and €1.00 and one souvenir sheet with one stamp of €2,50
Designer: Atelier Acácio Santos / Túlio Coelho
Printer: Joh. Enschedé
Process: 4-colour offset lithography
Size: stamps 30.6 mm x 40.0 mm
Souvenir sheet 125 x 95 mm
Perforation: Cross of Christ 13 x 13
Paper: White TR CPST331 110g/m2
Sheet: sheets of 50 stamps

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