Arauco Gulf Raw Milk Cheese

Ark of taste
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The raw milk cheese from the Gulf of Arauco is a creamy and aromatic cow’s cheese pressed into a rectangular shape. Its historical and cultural importance has enabaled it to withstand a number of threats over the years.

According to certain testimonies, the artisan production of the cheese in the Gulf of Arauco and particularly in the towns of Raqui Chico and Caripilún, date back to the end of the 19th century. It is, however, likely that the consumption and production of the cheese in this area originated during Spanish colonisation.
It is said that the farming population working for the large landowners (“señores) learnt to make the cheese with beef rennet at the end of the 1890s. Production was part of an economic strategy to confer value to milk in a context where less land was devoted to grazing because of expropriation necessary for the industrialisation of agriculture.

At the beginning of the 20th century, cheese producers started to sell it in nearby cities and the market extended up to Lota with the arrival of the railway. Here the cheese was highly valued by the families of the coal mine workers. With the adoption of hygiene-sanitary standards in the ’30s production would become semi-clandestine. This was even more so in the ’70s with the enactment of laws for pasteurisation and the introduction of industrial rennet. These laws were first seen as a sign of progress. The industrial rennet that made the cheese more standardised replaced that made by from the stomachs of local cows that more difficult to use and produce as it was no longer possible to slaughter animals in domestic areas. In addition, recession in the mines in the ’90s destroyed the once prosperous economy in the city of Lota, the main market for the cheese. Production was significantly reduced.

The cheese is aged as desired by wrapping it in fabric to absorb the whey. Its consistency changes over time and it may become more creamy and solid. In rural families, the cheese is consumed at breakfast with bread and coffee, as a snack or accompaniment to the main course. It can also be cooked on top of potatoes in the oven.

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Milk and milk products

Indigenous community:Mapuche
Nominated by:Rosa Budaleo Peña