It’s one of the most genuine Portuguese products. Either from sheep, cow or goat’s milk, cheese from Portugal is highly valued and of certified quality. In continental Portugal it’s the Central region, Lisbon and Alentejo where some of the most characteristic cheeses are found.
Firstly, the Serra da Estrela cheese (Queijo da Serra), is made with sheep’s milk and is coagulated with the Cynara cadunculus thistle, which is part of the Serra da Estrela flower, and comes in buttery and cured varieties.
Produced in the cold months between November and March, the buttery cheese is characterised by a semi-soft paste, which you can eat with a spoon simply by opening a hole on the top of the cheese.
Resulting from the manufacture of Serra da Estrela cheese, cheesecurd Serra da Estrela is widely used in pastry. Cheesecurd paste with honey or sweet pumpkin are simple but delicious sugestions to taste this delicacy.
Around the region of Lisbon, the Azeitão cheese is produced from sheep’s milk around the counties of Palmela, Sesimbra and Azeitão of the district of Setúbal. However, acording to history, its origin and secrets come from the Beiras region.
With a manufacturing method similar to that used in the Serra da Estrela region, the difference lies in the type of grass that the sheep graze on.
Azeitão cheese is cured and has a yellowish paste. It can be served as a starter or at the end of an exquisite meal, in which case it should be taken just before dessert.
Within the Azores, or more specifically the islands of Pico and São Jorge, are produced cheeses of an unrivalled nature.
Another variety produced in Portugal is the Fresh Cheese (queijo fresco). Served on its own or with bread, this cheese is present in sweet regional recipes such as Sintra's and Tentugal's Cheese cakes (Queijadas de Sintra e Tentúgal).
Cheese from São Jorge Island (Queijo da Ilha) is produced from cow’s milk. The treatment process takes between one and three months until it acquires a consistent texture. It has a strong smell and flavour and a slightly spicy taste, it has a yellowish colouration and is great in fondue.
The cheese from Pico Island (Queijo São João do Pico) is a crafted cheese produced in the family dairies of the island, made with raw milk, animal rennet and salt. It is usually eaten as a dessert and as a starter.
The cheeses can be stored at room temperature, in a cool dry place or in the refrigerator. In either case the cheese should be covered by a sheet of aluminium foil so that it can retain its natural moisture.