The Queijo Serra da Estrela PDO is a semi-soft cheese made with the milk from the Bordaleira Serra da Estrela and Churra Mondegueira breeds of sheep.
The sheep are milked by hand. The milk is heated indirectly to a temperature of between 27°C and 32°C and is salted. It is coagulated for approximately 60 minutes with the naturally occurring Cardoon flower (Cynara cardunculus) coagulant. The curd is drained slowly, placed in the moulds and pressed by hand to extract the whey. It is aged at a temperature of between 6°C and 12°C and 80% to 95% humidity. The cheeses are washed and turned frequently to keep the rind smooth and clean.
Appearance and Flavour
Queijo Serra da Estrela PDO is a semi-soft cheese, yellow to white in colour, creamy and smooth with no bubbling. It is cylindrical in shape; smooth skinned and without defined borders. The diameter varies from 11 cm to 20 cm, the thickness between 4 cm and 6 cm, and the weight between 700 gr and 1.7 kg. The flavour is delicate, clean and slightly acid. The more mature cheeses have a yellow to orange colour, with regular air bubbles and a strong, lightly salted and spicy flavour.
Queijo Serra da Estrela PDO is made in the municipal areas of Carregal do Sal, Celorico da Beira, Fornos de Algodres, Gouveia, Mangualde, Manteigas, Nelas, Oliveira do Hospital, Penalva do Castelo, Seia, Aguiar da Beira, Arganil, Covilhã, Guarda, Tábua, Tondela, Trancoso and Viseu, in the districts of Viseu, Coimbra, Guarda and Castelo Branco.
Queijo Serra da Estrela PDO is the oldest of Portuguese cheeses. It is famous internationally for its taste and flavour. The Romans themselves were great fans of this cheese and in the Middle Ages the poet, Gil Vicente even wrote a song about it. In 1287 Dom Diniz, the King of Portugal, created the first cheese market in Celorico da Beira, in the Serra da Estrela PDO region. During the time of the great explorers it was one of the foods that kept well and therefore was taken on the long voyages. With the construction of the Beira Alta railway in 1885 this cheese arrived in the large markets of Lisbon and Porto, therefore extending its fame even further. On 8th February 1989 the Confraria do Queijo da Serra da Estrela was established to protect and promote this prestigious cheese.
Queijo Serra da Estrela PDO does not have a recommended storage temperature but in any case it is advisable that it is kept below 22°C. It can be kept for a long time at a temperature below -1°C, depending on its stage of maturity. It is a delicious cheese which can be enjoyed as a starter or at the end of a meal. It is ideal eaten with broa, the traditional local bread, made with maize flour and a glass of the excellent regional Vinho do Dão.
This cheese is sold as Queijo Serra da Estrela PDO Semi-soft, Semi-hard and Velho. It is sold whole, either loose or packed, or prepacked in portions.
Queijo Serra da Estrela PDO is the pride of a region rich in tradition and culture. It is considered the father of all Portuguese sheep's milk cheeses, because of the acquired custom of taking the flocks to graze in the high mountain pastures in the summer time, a custom which has spread to other regions of the country.