Thursday, 7 June 2018

Cheese time

On Friday 18 May we went to the XXV Concurso Oficial de Quesos de Gran Canaria (25th Official Gran Canaria Cheese Competition) where, I am told, for the first time the public could both taste, buy, and vote for cheese. To do that, one had to travel to atrociously-named INFECAR (La Institución Ferial de Canarias) located in one of the more horrid parts of the city. Nevertheless, we successfully navigated there (and back) by public transport. The place itself is not so bad but seems underused. The cheese tasting took place in a spacious foyer of the Palacio de Congresos. Next to the entrance, there was a little stall with cheese for sale.

While the experts were going around the tables where the cheeses were piled (it looked like they were given one latex glove each, so they used their gloved hands to hold iPads and poke the cheeses barehandedly), we also had a look around.

According to the catalogue that I took from one of the tables, there are about 80 queserías artesanales (artisanal cheesemakers) in Gran Canaria. Here, 31 cheesemakers presented 65 cheese varieties competing in 13 categories. Most of the cheeses were made with unpasteurised milk.

We limited ourselves to sampling and eventually purchasing three wedges of cheese, leaving voting to others. (The full list of winners can be found here.) All three cheeses were classified as semicurado (variously translated as semi-cured, semi-hard, semi-soft, take your pick).

  1. Cortijo de Daniela Semicurado/Tuno Indio by Airam Rivero Bethencourt and Esmeralda Santana Falcón (Lomo del Pilón, Espartero, Teror)
      This sheep’s milk cheese got our attention mostly because of the spectacular purple colour given to its rind by the fruit of cactus Opuntia dillenii, known in Canarias as tuno indio, penca, penco, pencón, topete or tunera. We loved the taste of freshly cut cheese. Rather disappointingly, after spending just a couple days in the fridge it was not as nice anymore. So, a word of advice, if I may: don’t buy if you don’t mean to eat it the same day.
  2. El Cortijo El Montañon by Flora María Gil Mendoza y Domingo Moreno Moreno (Pico del Montañon, Caideros, Gáldar)
      Very tasty, crumbly sheep’s and goat’s milk cheese.
  3. El Buen Pastor by Juan Andrés Vizcaíno Guedes (Casa Pastores, Santa Lucía de Tirajana)
      This sheep’s and goat’s milk affair is similar to the above but a bit softer (in more than one sense).

More photos of cheese @ Shutterstock.