Catalan Cheese: An Overview

Catalan cheeseCatalan cheese
In an ideal world, Catalonia’s many cheeses would make their way across the Atlantic to cheese shops in the U.S. In reality, few of them do. But the ones that have found a market in America prove the skill of this region’s cheesemakers. More than any other region of Spain, Catalonia has experienced a revival of interest in its artisan cheeses in recent years.

To taste the full range of Catalan dairy products—the Cadí butter from the Cooperative of El Cadí is known throughout Europe—you will need to go there. Many of the dairies welcome visitors. And if you are a committed cheese enthusiast or professional, you should time your visit for the Pyrenees Handmade Cheese Fair (Fira de Formatges Artesans del Pirineu) in La Seu d’Urgell on the next-to-last weekend of October. There you will be able to sample more than 100 cheeses from Catalonia and the neighboring regions.

A few cheeses to watch for when you visit:

Garrotxa: Production of this traditional aged goat’s milk cheese had all but ceased by the 1980s, when it was revived by a cooperative of young people. The wheels, which weigh about three pounds, have a thin rind dusted with blue-gray mold and a dense, semifirm, smooth interior with a sweet, nutty taste. Available in the U.S.

Mató: A sweet, unsalted, unfermented fresh cheese that Catalans eat for dessert with honey or preserves. Catalan shops sell it when it is only a day or two old, turned out of the shallow baskets it drained in.

Recuit: A smooth, fresh, unsalted cheese with the look of thick clotted cream; a specialty of L’Empordà. Like mató, which it resembles, it is usually eaten for dessert.

Serrat Gros: A prize-winning raw aged goat cheese made spring through fall by a small producer in the village of Ossera. Limited availability in the U.S.

Tou des Tillers: a raw cow’s milk cheese from the province of Lleida, with a Brie-like bloomy rind.

Tupí: This smooth, spreadable cheese is named for the small earthenware crock that it ages in. It may be made with cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk cheese mixed with brandy or anisette, then left to mature for a couple of months. The long wait yields a strong and spicy spread that may be served with butter, honey or marmalade to mellow it.

Urgélia: A washed-rind cow’s milk cheese made by a cooperative, Urgélia is semisoft and creamy, with a butter-colored interior and garlicky, meaty aromas. It has PDO (name-protected) status, awarded by the European Union’s appellation system. Available in the U.S.

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