The 7 Different Types of Asturian Cheese
Forty cheeses. Fifty cheeses. Maybe one hundred cheeses. It all comes down to how you count them. No matter how many cheeses you think Asturias has, the certain thing is, it’s a lot. More than any other region in Spain by a wide margin.
This embarrassment of riches leads to a problem. How should we talk about these cheeses? Spain has multiple, conflicting, ways of describing cheeses, and so does pretty much every other European country. Fortunately, the world’s coolest cheese-monger, Juliet Harbutt, has tackled exactly this issue.
Her 7 Different Types of Cheese provides a wonderful structure to talk about cheeses without having to delve into either coagulation temperatures or particular national obsessions with one sensory detail or another. She has graciously allowed me to use that structure here, to make sense of the plethora of Asturian cheeses. Let’s get to it!
Quesos frescos in all their varieties. From Ricotta relative Requexón to the atypical aged paste Urbiés, these cheeses are widely eaten in Asturias. They are favorite cheeses for spreading on bread, eating with a dollop of honey for dessert, or using in sauce making.
Aged Fresh Cheese
Wrinkled white to grey-blue rind - 19-24% Fat
These are the slightly aged goat cheeses famous all over Spain as rulo de cabra and similar. The rind is almost non-existent, looking more like dust or tiny crystals.
Soft White Rind Cheese
White Fuzzy Rind - 24-26% Fat
These grow a fine white crusty rind of penicillin candidum mold, which helps ripen the cheese and prevents the soft, voluptuous interior from drying out. Mild, sweet and buttery, the rind sometimes deepening to a rust color as in the singular Rey Silo.
Fine to thick grey-brown rind or orange & sticky - 26-28% Fat
Asturias (and Spain in general) loves semi-soft cheeses. The curd is lightly pressed to remove whey and create a rubbery, elastic texture. Some like Abredo have a barely formed rind and are generally mild, buttery and sweet. Those with a thicker, mold-encrusted rind such as El Castañéu are denser and taste stronger, more earthy. Some, like Vidiago, are repeatedly ‘washed’ in brine which encourages the orange, sticky, bacteria to develop. The result is a feisty, pungent flavor and aroma.
crusty, grey often polished, waxed or oiled - 28-34% Fat
Hard cheeses are pressed for anywhere from a few hours to even weeks in order remove the whey and compact the curd. While not the most famous of the Asturian cheeses, they are some of the most interesting. Usually enjoyed by themselves, as part of a tabla of cheese, these are rarely used in Asturian cooking.
Gritty, rough, sometimes sticky rind - 28-34% Fat
The pride of Asturias is its blue cheeses. From the world-famous DOP Cabrales to the understated Picu Urriellu, Penicillium Roqueforti is no stranger to the Asturian mountain caves where these cheeses are ripened. These are especially prized for eating alongside cider and are widely used in sauce making.
Cheeses with various flavorings - 28-34% Fat
Cheeses to which any outside flavoring (excepting smoking) has been added. Commonly in Asturias this takes the form of soft goats cheese with fruit of some sort mixed in, but can also be harder cheeses mixed with herbs or pimentón.