The perfect addition to your Thanksgiving festivities â€“ the Queijo Serra dâ€™Estrela â€“ is in the best form Iâ€™ve seen it in years. Apparently, the weather conditions in northern Portugal were better than they have been in years. We sometimes forget that the weather influences the character of artisanal cheeses as much as it does.
A couple of Thanksgivings ago I took another Portuguese cheese, this one from southern Portugal. That year the Serpas were showing better than the Serras. As hearty as the ewes may be, able to tolerate the roughest conditions and still able to deliver splendid milk, they must still count on the pastures that themselves depend upon sufficient rainfall.
Usually this is one of the best times of year for these types of cheeses â€“ the thistle-renneted sheep milk cheeses. The Merino breed, whose milk the Serpa is produced, can withstand drier conditions than the Merendeira ewes â€“ the breed from which the Serras are produced.
Quite honestly, I had not been paying that much attention to the climate in Portugal this year. Or maybe this is just an exceptional batch of Serra.
For a more intimate Thanksgiving party, a wheel of the smaller AzeitÃ£o should work well, enough for 4-6 persons, all of it including the rind. These are looking great and gooey. This is one cheese for which I wrote an ode in Mastering Cheese. At their best they can be utterly divine. The ode that I wrote had to be toned down a bit; it was just a little too erotic.
By the way, take care of your early holiday shopping and send an autographed copy of that new book, or take a copy with you to the Thanksgiving party. The publisher ran out of copies of my first two books around the holidays in previous years. Apparently they did not recognize the strength of this cheese wave and did not fully anticipate the demand for great books (if I say so myself) on cheese. The ode to AzeitÃ£o appears on page 108. No longer X-rated, it makes good wholesome reading, suitable for Thanksgiving.
Posted by Artisanal Cheese