The Milky Way – Cheese from the Camino de Santiago

It all started at Cheese. Thats’ how Pascual Cabaño of the Asturian dairy Rey Silo describes the birth of Alimentos del Camino de Santiago, one of the first Slow Food communities in Spain.

“The history of our community is closely linked to Slow Food and Cheese. I’ve been coming to Cheese with Rey Silo since 2011. The event filled me with so much enthusiasm that in 2013 I convinced a group of Asturian cheesemakers to share a stand, imagining that we’d present ourselves together as Asturias for Cheese. Just as were getting ready to leave a herders’ cooperative from the Basque country called me and told me they were ready to come with us to Bra too. They asked me if they could share our stand, and I was very happy to say yes!”

“Seeing as we were no longer solely Asturians in the group, we had to change the name to Quesos del Camino de Santiago. From that point onwards other cheesemakers joined our crew from Galicia and in 2015 we came to Cheese with a stand that proposed, as well as cheeses, other local products like cider and mountain honey. And so we changed the name again, to Alimentos del Camino de Santiago. Last year we took part in Terra Madre Salone del Gusto for the first time, and I heard talk of Slow Food communities. It seemed like a fantastic project, so we spoke about it among ourselves and decided to become one of these communities.”

Rey Silo Blanco, one of the oldest cheeses in Europe. The cheese has been produced since the 18th century, but in the 1980s it slowly disappeared, and is now protected by a PDO which only allows for the use of pasteurized milk.

SPANISH CHEESES AT CHEESE 2019

  • The Alimentos del Camino de Santiago community will have a large stand at the International Market.
  • The community will also participate in an unmissable Taste Workshop on Sunday, September 22 at 1 p.m. Spain – Traditional cheeses from the Camino de Santiago. This event gives you the opportunity to taste an authenic gastronomic panorama of northern Spain through some of their traditional cheeses. The experiences will be made even more special by the presence of other traditional products to acocmpany the cheeses: high mountain honey, cider, cava, extra-virgin olive oil, ancient corn crackers (presented for the first time at Cheese by the chef Miguel Sierra) and the dessert dulce de manzana, an apple cake consumed with cheese which is typical of the Asturias region.

BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW!

Tetilla, the only Spanish cheese PDO made with raw cows’ milk, whose conical form is the source of its name.

SPANISH RAW MILK

From Asturias we’ll taste Rey Silo Blanco, one of the oldest cheeses in Europe. The cheese has been made since the 18th century, but in the 1980s it slowly disappeared, and is now protected by a PDO which only allows for the use of pasteurized milk. Raw milk Rey Silo Blanco was the cheese which Pascual ate as a child, and which everyone called “grandmother’s cheese” because their grandmothers used leftover milk to make it. There’s no secret to it but the quality of the milk.

Moving on to Galicia, we’ll taste Tetilla, the only Spanish cheese PDO which allows for the use of raw milk, whose conical form is the source of its name, and raw milk Cebreiro, characterized by its shape which resembles a mushroom or a chef’s hat. Cebreiro has also obtained a PDO, but this calls for the use of pasteurized milk. However, there are some small-scale producers who continue to make it using raw milk. From Castile and León we’ll taste Moncedillo, a blue cheese made with sheep’s milk in Segovia, the most modern of the four cheeses with its washed rind.

ALIMENTOS DE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

I ask Pascual if the name Alimentos del Camino de Santiago was chosen because the cheesemakers are based along the ancient Way of Saint James.

“Today the most famous part of the Camino de Santiago is in France, passing through Roncisvalle, but in reality the Camino de Santiago includes the entire network of paths and roads which pilgrims used to take (and still do!) to go to Santiago de Compostela. Originally the best-known route of the Camino passed through Oviedo, where pilgrims would stop at the Cathedral of Santo Salvatore to visit the Arca Santa before moving towards Santiago. Beyond my activities as a cheesemaker, I also work as a journalist and some time ago I interviewed the late Umberto Eco, who explained all the research he’d done on the topic to write The Name of the Rose, and for his interpretation of the Commentary on the Apocalypse by Beatus of Liébana, which was written just 300 metres away from our dairy! The name Alimentos del Camino de Santiago was chosen to include all the regions of northern Spain who make up this big community in an easily-identifiable way.”

Raw milk Cebreiro, characterized by its shapes which resembles a mushroom or chef’s hat.

THE IMPORTANCE OF RAW MILK

So what makes the raw milk cheeses of northern Spain unique?

“The biggest influence on the taste of cheeses in Galicia and Asturias is the natural diet of the animals. Our pastures are unique and complete, because we have a microclimate quite different from the rest of Spain and Europe. We rarely exceed 22 degrees and it never stops raining. Our products are closely tied to the land and the environment they come from, where we live the pastures are very green and the milk from the animals that graze here has a different sensory profile. The taste of Rey Silo for example is so complex that one time the French chef  Alain Ducasse asked me if we added goat’s milk cream to obtain its flavor, because the taste reminded of French goat cheeses.”

Alimentos del Camino de Santiago includes numerous raw milk cheeses. The cheesemakers in Asturias and Galicia mainly use cow’s milk, while in Avila (Castile and León) they use goat’s milk, and in the Basque country and in Segovia (Castile and León) sheep’s milk. All the cheesemakers in the community respect what is present in the milk. The community also includes other products that are traditionally eaten together with cheese, which adds another twenty people who share the principles of Slow Food.

FROM JOURNALIST TO CHEESEMAKER

Pascual tells me a little of his own life story.

“As a journalist, I always loved writing about cheese and local cheesemakers who worked with raw milk. Then I met Ernesto Madera, a biologist who wanted to open a dairy in Asturias. We became business partners, and started up Rey Silo. The first time we let the public taste our cheeses was November 28, 2009, during the Spanish presentation of the Slow Food Manifesto in Defence of Raw Milk Cheese. Do you see how much we’re connected to Slow Food? We’re really proud of the work we’re doing, because we decided to resurrect the production of a local raw milk cheese that had been lost, and every time we eat we return to our childhoods. Unfortunately last January we had to stop our activities, because the bodega where we age the cheese was flooded and we were forced to throw a lot of it away. A terrible time, but now we’re almost back to normality. We’re working without pause to get ready for Cheese, because one thing I’m certain of is I wouldn’t miss Cheese for anything in the world!”

The Taste Workshop Spain – Traditional cheeses from the Camino de Santiago is on Sunday, September 22 at 1 p.m.

BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW!

by Giulia Capaldi, g.capaldi@slowfood.it

Moncedillo, a blue cheese made with sheep’s milk in Segovia, the most modern of the Spanish cheeses presented in the Taste Workshop, with its characteristic washed rind.

Popular tags: