Ingredient Highlight: Catalan Cheese

Catalonia is an autonomous region found in northeast Spain, whose largest city and capital is Barcelona. Catalonian cuisine is diverse given the region’s wide-ranging geography from the rugged Mediterranean coastline to the mountainous regions of the Pyrenees. The most utilized ingredients in Catalan cuisine are vegetables, legumes, pork, seafood, wine, olive oil, and cheese. Catalonia has a long history of animal husbandry, which is the basis for the region’s cheese production. Catalonian cheeses are as diverse as the region’s landscape and can be made from goat, sheep, or cow’s milk depending on the area of production. We’ve selected these four cheeses to show the diversity produced from this unique region. 

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Garrotxa is perhaps Catalonia’s most famous cheese and one that you can sometimes find in specialty shops and restaurants in the United States. Garrotxa is a cave aged, mold ripened cheese made with milk from Murciana goats. This striking cheese has a white interior with a gray rind, which can be found in small wheels about 3 lbs in size. The texture of garrotxa is soft, pasty, and almost flaky with a milky, nutty, delicate flavor. The humidity of the Pyrenees speeds up the cheese’s aging process and only takes about 4-8 weeks to mature. 

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Tupi is a unique Catalan cheese that is fermented with alcohol. This cheese can be made with cow, goat or sheep’s milk. No matter which milk is used, the cheese is creamy and soft with a high fat content. The name Tupi refers to the jar in which the cheese is fermented. To make Tupi, fresh cheese is pressed by hand, added to the jar, and then liquor is poured on top. The cheese is stirred intermittently for 4 or 5 days and then aged in the jar for at least two months. The resulting white cheese is rindless, spicy, and pungent. Typically, tupi is served mixed with tomato sauce, butter, olive oil, or honey to temper its bold flavor. 

Mató is a fresh, spreadable cheese made with goat or cow’s milk. This relatively bland cheese is unfermented and produced without salt. Mató is made without animal rennet; instead, the curd is coagulated with an enzyme found in artichokes. The texture and flavor is not unlike a cross between yogurt and a soft cheese. Typically, mató is drizzled with honey and eaten for dessert.

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Alt Urgell y La Cerdanya is a DOP pasteurized cheese made with milk from Freisian cows, which is aged for a minimum of 45 days. The result is a mild, semi-soft cheese with a creamy and nutty flavor. Alt Urgell y La Cerdanya cheese has a light brown rind, which contains an ivory white interior punctuated with small holes. This cheese is often served as a starter alongside dried fruits and nuts.

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