QUESO DE L'ALT URGELL Y LA CERDANYA or URGELIA Volume 1 #33 Seasonal Cheeses for Autumn

World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season. 

This week Queso de l'Alt Urgell y la Cerdanya (or Urgelia) from Spain  

Country: Spain 🇪🇸

Region: Catalonia

Made from: Cow’s milk

Pasteurised: Yes

Texture: Soft, creamy

Taste: Robust, buttery, sweet

Certification: DOP

Aging: minimum 45 days

Queso de l'Alt Urgell y la Cerdanya, also called Urgelia is semi-soft cows milk cheese made in Alt Urgell and Cerdanay in the Catalonia region of northern Spain. Urgelia melts well, has a robust buttery taste that is slightly salty, and a lasting, somewhat bitter aftertaste. It has a mild, pleasant, sweet flavor with a fruity, penetrating, slightly nutty aroma and a soft, creamy texture. It's interior is creamy white with lots of small holes and its rind is light brown.

The cows that produce the milk for Urgelia graze on pastures in the Catalan Pyrenees, not far from Barcelona. Urgelia is a brand name. The cheese is made by one large cooperative, which buys milk from more than 200 farms and has helped the small farms in this remote region survive.

Urgelia has the prestigious DOP (denominacion de origen protegida) status, but the DOP name is so unwieldy -- Queso de l'Alt Urgell y la Cerdanya -- that it's hardly surprising the cooperative came up with an abbreviated version for marketing purposes.

Urgelia is a pressed cheese made from pasteurized, whole milk from Friesian cows, with a minimum ripening period of 45 days. It is bathed in a yeast brine prior to maturing, which adds to its aroma and taste. The process begins with the homogenization and pasteurization of the milk which is then soured at a temperature of 30-33ºC (86-91ºF) for 30 minutes.

The curds are then cut and the whey drained off. The drained curds are transferred to round molds and pressed to expel more whey. After molding and pressing, the curds are submerged in brine at a controlled temperature of 10-15ºC (50-59ºF) to obtain the right degree of saltiness and to prepare the rind for the growth of Brevibacteria. These beneficial bacteria, added in the aging room, colonize the rind as it matures, turning it golden, sticky and aromatic. The bacteria like a moist environment, so the cheese must be washed repeatedly with brine during its maturation. The product is ripened in caves at a temperature of 11-14ºC (51-57ºF) and with relative humidity of 90-96%, for a minimum of 45 days. 

The finished cheese is semisoft and creamy, with a few tiny eyes and a uniform butter color. For a washed-rind cheese, the flavors are relatively restrained. 

Cylindrical in shape, with a diameter of 195-200 mm (7½ - 7¾”) and an approximate weight of 2½ kgs (5.5 lb). Minimum dry matter is 54% and fat content is 50% of dry matter.

How to enjoy it

Urgelia is great partnered with fruit or lightly spicy chorizo and melts beautifully over vegetables.

Despite being a washed-rind you could pair Urgelia with a prized red wine without fear. It would also go well with a spicy white such as an Alsatian Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris. Beer would be another good option.

Sources: oldehudson.com, itscheese.com, SFGate, Foods and Wines from Spain, catalog-cs.info