The Queijo Rabaçal PDO is a cheese made from sheep and goats' milk in the respective proportion of two thirds to one third. It is a semi-hard, mature cheese with 45% fat and between 52% and 60% humidity.
Queijo Rabaçal PDO cheese is made in the municipal areas of Condeixa-a-Nova, Penela, Soure, Alvaiázere, Ansião and Pombal, in the districts of Leiria and Coimbra.
The two kinds of milk are filtered through a muslin cloth. It is then heated and salted and then coagulated at a temperature of 30°C for 45 minutes. Natural rennet is used for this process, the abomasums from the goat. The resulting curd is placed in the moulds and pressed by hand. One side is salted one day and on the following day the cheese is turned and salted on the other side. The cheeses are then taken out of the moulds, washed and placed in a cloth. They are matured for 20 days in no more than 85% humidity at a temperature of between 10°C and 15°C.
Appearance and Flavour
Queijo Rabaçal PDO cheese is cylindrical in shape with a diameter of 10 cm to 12 cm, is 3.3 cm to 4.2 cm thick and varies in weight between 300 gr and 500 gr. It has irregular air bubbles and a yellow rind and the cheese itself is white. The rind is uniform, smooth, dry and slightly oily. The flavour is delicate and pleasant.
The origins of Queijo Rabaçal PDO go back a long way. It would seem that the name Rabaçal derives from the village of Rabaçal which once belonged to the Comarca of Coimbra. The oldest written reference to this cheese dates back to 1139. The writer, Eça de Queiroz in his a Cidade e as Serras (1901), confirmed, "Any cheese such as Camembert or Rabaçal can cost you between 250,000 and 300,000 réis".
Queijo Rabaçal PDO cheese must be stored at a temperature of between 0°C and 10°C. It can be eaten as a starter, at the end of a meal or as an afternoon snack. When it is semi-hard it goes well with bread, nuts, honey and jeropiga, a type of very sweet Grappa. The more mature version is ideal with a slice of crusty fresh bread and a glass of good local red wine.
This cheese is sold as Queijo Rabaçal PDO, either semi-hard or mature. It is sold loose or wrapped in cling film clearly labelled, bearing a seal of guarantee and its PDO certification.
What really distinguishes Queijo Rabaçal PDO is the distinctive aroma given it by a wild plant called Santa Maria which is a small, white or pink flowering, strongly scented shrub, a variety of thyme which grows profusely in this area and on which the sheep and goats feed that provide the milk for this cheese.