World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Cabrales from Spain.
Country: Spain 🇪🇸
Made from: Cow’s milk however, sometimes blended with goat and ewe’s milk as well
Texture: Creamy and firm
Taste: Acidic, salty, sharp
Aging: 2 to 6 months
Cabrales, also known as Quesu Cabrales, Queso de Cabrales or Cabraliego, is a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) awarded, Spanish semi-hard, fatty blue cheese. Cabrales is produced by small-scale, traditional dairies in the twenty or so villages in the Cabrales and Penamellera Alta districts of eastern Asturias in northern Spain. The milk used for production is sourced from livestock that live in mountainous areas where, during the summer months, they can take advantage of the abundant summer pastures at high altitude. Raw milk, mainly cow's milk, is used to produce it. However, as most farmers keep mixed herds, blends of goat and ewe's milk are used in the spring and summer.
To produce Cabrales the milk is heated and then curdled by the addition of rennet. The whey is removed from the curds, which are then packed into cylindrical molds called arnios, salted and left to cure and harden. After the initial curing period of around two weeks, the Cabrales is then aged a further two to six months in natural caves in the limestone mountains of the area. Chilly and humid conditions in the caves facilitate the growth of bluish-green penicillium mould. The blue mold comes from the sides of the oceanside caves. It is not artificially injected, as is the case of its cousins - Danish Bleu and French Camembert.
The cheeses are placed on wooden shelves known as talameras, where they are periodically turned and cleaned. Relative humidity in the caves is typically 90% and the temperature is a cool 7–13 °C (45–55 °F). These conditions favor the growth of the Penicillium Roqueforti molds that are instrumental in developing dense, blue-green veins throughout the paste. The cheeses are turned by hand periodically until the paste has been completely grown with natural mold. This produces a deep blue veining and a thick texture with the characteristic creamy and piquant flavor. There are only limited quantities of Cabrales available because the cheese makers use traditional farmhouse methods, in small family-run dairies of the township.
When ripe, Cabrales has a smooth texture, punctuated with holes and pockets of blue. The creamy paste is studded with crunchy granules of crystallized amino acids. Cabrales has a well-deserved reputation for being among the most distinctive and powerful blue cheeses. A finished Cabrales can be characterized by its strong, penetrating aroma and sharp, acidic, slightly salty taste.
When fully ripe, Cabrales has an incredibly strong blue flavor, with distinct notes of salt that become more intense as the cheese ages. In mixed milk versions, these flavors can also be quite acidic and more complex.
Traditionally Cabrales was sold wrapped in moist leaves of Acer pseudoplatanus. But today regulation requires the cheese be sold in a dark-green-coloured aluminum foil with the stamp of the PDO Queso de Cabrales.
How to enjoy it
Cabrales is best paired with something sweet, like honey or fig jam, to contrast its intense flavor. It pairs well with red wine, fresh figs, salami, sweet sherry and dry sausages. Cabrales is wonderful as a base for sauces, great for melting over grilled or roasted meats and goes well with baguette slices, crackers, or fruit.
Source: cheese.com, Wikipedia, culturecheesemag.com, La Tienda, Amazon