Queso Semicurado de La Serena Artesanal
It is a semi-seasoned sheep cheese that is made in Comarca de La Serena, a land made of a large plain and few and low hills. With no trees, this area is covered in pastures where the Merinos sheep breed is reared. In the past, this cheese was made by shepherds during transhumance and used as a currency.
La Serena cheese is made with raw Merinos sheep’s milk, with the addition of a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) infusion, called yerbacuajo. When rennet is formed, whey is separated from curd, which is poured into moulds shaping it. After pressing it for hours, every wheel is salted. Before the cheese wheel can mature for at leat sixty days, every wheel is wrapped in a bandage because the cheese wheel may break since they are turned every other day. When the cheese solidifies, the bandage can be removed and the cheese wheels can be turned for another month. The resulting cheese is cylindrical, with flat sides and convex heel whose weight may range from 1 to 2 kilos. Its rind is semi-hard, pale yellow or ochre, and the inside is soft and white or ivory. The La Serena cheese needs to be preserved in a cool place or in a vase full of oil, like in the old times. It can be eaten any time during the day, possibily with nuts, jam and while drinking a glass of wine.
The number of small breeding farms has decreased in the last few years, because of migrations towards urban areas and the consequent depopulation of outlying regions. The La Serena cheese received many recognizements but the excessively industrialized cheese-making process, due to the high demand for this product, is making the original artisanal cheese disappear. Artisanal cheese-makers using raw milk only operate locally now.