We haven’t heard much about cheeses with spring or summer milkbut it is easy to understand that they exist, since the season of warmth, with the green of the meadows and the melting of the mountains, is not the same as winter, where the inclement weather also marks its organoleptic nuances.
Why? Well, because the cattle do not eat the same (just as we do not eat the same type of cheese, or we should not). Good examples are the Swiss cheeses Le Gruyère d’Alpage AOP and L’etivaz AOP, which could hardly be made without the Swiss tradition of the Alpageor the rise of the cows, with the beginning of summer, to the highest alpine areas.
There, after the thaw, the cattle graze freely, feed on the fresh high mountain herbs and drink very pure waters. The result is a very high quality milk that is used in the family dairies located in the vicinity of the meadows and that make the cheese as in the past, following one hundred percent traditional methods.
That’s why they have a very limited production and are made using ancient methods for only a few months a year on farms located at more than 1,000 meters of altitude.
The exclusivity is exacerbated in the case of the PDO of the french comteWell, according to Ana Belén González Pinos, gastronomic consultant and trainer specializing in artisan cheeses, “the Jura Valley cows eat a type of flower that only grows for just three weeks in April and takes between 12 and 24 months to finish maturing. The demand is such that a quota is set per store to be able to acquire them”.
Gruyère d’Alpage AOP It is a one hundred percent Swiss cheese without holes (the one with the holes, which are called eyes in the cheese, is the Emmentaler), which has been produced in an artisanal way, according to a recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation since the year 1115. This cheese with an intense flavor, a lot of character and a particular yellow color is highly coveted throughout the world, since it is made only during the summer months in 60 alpine farms located between 1,000 and 2,500 meters above sea level.
For its part, L’etivaz AOP It is only produced from May 10 to October 10 in the highest areas of the Alps, at more than 1,000 meters. In these sunny meadows, dairy cows graze freely among flowers, and master cheesemakers, in small dairies (no more than 130), make each piece with care.
To achieve this delicacy, the cattle are moved uphill along the bucolic paths located in the canton of Vaud. You will distinguish it by its flavor rich in aromas, slightly fruity and with a touch of walnut.
Cheeses with less fat for the summer
González Pinos, who is also an international cheese tasting judge, acknowledges that, until now, in Spain, “when talking about spring or summer cheeses, it was done to indicate the cheeses we chose to eat, not necessarily those that are made with spring milk.
A milk that is more notable in lactic coagulation cheeses or in those that go on sale very quickly (that is, those with little maturation), such as a semi-cured, a tender or a lactic type Cheese and Kisseswhich won the best cheese in Spain 2022 and in the world at the last World Cheese Awards 2021.
Give as an example of which they are not eaten in the heatwave season cake-type cheeses or those that have matured for more than twelve months, since they have more fat.
In that sense, he points out that “it is a paradox that one of the most consumed cheeses in summer is burrata, thinking that it is a fresh cheese. We love it because it has that creamy and smooth center called stracciatella, which, yes, is a frayed filata, but to which cream is added”. That is why he recommends trying better with mozzarella, with the authentic one, lighter for these temperatures.
Spring cheeses in Spain
Elvira Garcia Cheeses, from El Barraco (Ávila): they know their goats so well that they even notice how their fur changes from white to gray in the spring and, don’t miss it, their breath, rockrose, rosemary and thyme, which is what that there is in the sierra where they graze, in addition to juniper and holm oak. When milking them, the milk is more balanced in fat and protein, so that we will find more floral and lactic notes in the mouth, such as yogurt,” says the expert.
For its part, the Protected Designation of Origin Queso Flor de Guía, Queso de Media Flor de Guía and Queso de Guía regulates the production of milk, elaboration and maturation of cheeses in three municipalities in the northwest of Gran Canaria: Gáldar, Santa María de Guía and Moya, where spring is the best time to obtain milk with more fat and aromas.
In summer, the cattle, among which the sheep predominate, go on transhumance to Tejeda, as it is one of the highest municipalities on the island and where they can find rich pastures. Therefore, “these cheeses are linked to a way of life that enriches our anthropological heritage and with the disappearance of the product it would mean the forgetting of traditions rooted in our islands for centuries”, they explain in Cheeses from Gran Canaria.
Finally, and another very good option, are the soft Galician cheeses such as tetilla or Arzúa-Ulloa, which are light and creamy, ideal for melting, on toast or in those salads that we love for hot days.
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