The Queijos da Beira Baixa PDO are semi-hard cheeses made from sheep's milk in the following sub-divisions: Queijo de Castelo Branco PDO, Queijo Picante da Beira Baixa PDO and Queijo Amarelo da Beira Baixa PDO. These cheeses each have very distinctive flavours and are therefore sub-divided into the areas of their production.
Queijos da Beira Baixa PDO cheeses are made in the municipal areas in the district of Castelo Branco and part of the Santarém district.
The origins of Queijos da Beira Baixa PDO are closely linked to the pastures of the Beira Baixa region. Since time immemorial the flocks of sheep of the Serra da Estrela Mountains have been brought to graze here because of the harsh mountain climate during the winter months. Cheese making in the Castelo Branco region began in about 1870, before that the sheep had only been kept for their wool. The spur for this was probably provided by the building of the Beira Baixa railway which created a quicker connection to Lisbon, which was the principal destination of the people of Castelo Branco and therefore the principal market for Beira Baixa cheeses.
The making of Queijos da Beira Baixa PDO cheeses includes many traditional customs such as always beginning production around 10th March and ending on about 29th June, the feast of São Pedro. At the market in Lisbon the cheeses that had just arrived from Beira Baixa were classified as temporões (premature) if they were made in the months of March or April, and serôdios (late) if made in the months of July or August.
Queijos da Beira Baixa PDO vary in appearance and flavour depending on the variety. Queijo de Castelo Branco PDO is a semi-hard or semi-soft cheese with a yellowish colour, very few air bubbles and a malleable, smooth, straw or reddish coloured rind; it has a full flavour which is slightly spicy in the more mature examples. Queijo Picante is a hard or semi-hard cheese, the colour is a greyish white, with no air bubbles and no rind; it has a distinctive aroma and a spicy taste. Queijo Amarelo is a semi-hard or semi-soft cheese with irregular air bubbles, is yellowish in colour with a semi-hard, fine, deep yellow rind; it has a strong and pleasant aroma and a clean, slightly acidic taste. All these cheeses are cylindrical in shape and all have well defined edges except for Queijo de Castelo Branco PDO.
Queijos da Beira Baixa PDO cheeses were originally stored in glass or ceramic containers in olive oil or at a cold temperature. Today the cheese should be kept in the fridge at between 0°C and 12°C. It is excellent eaten with an aperitif or served as a starter or at the end of a meal. It is an excellent snack with a slice of fresh, crusty bread.
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)(ES). Protected designation of origińe (PDO) stands for a product for which the principal steps for production are done following a well-established technique within the same geographical area, which gives the product its characteristics.
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09 10 2017 - Date of publication of this article