Queijo colonial is a raw cow’s milk cheese from the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Paraná: These lowland areas are usually cultivated with annual crops and have a subtropical climate (hot summers, with more than 30 millimeters of rain).
This cheese is one of the most emblematic of a group of products from southern Brazil known as “colonial”: foods traditionally produced on the farm by farmers of Italian or German origin, usually destined for family consumption.
Forms of queijo colonial are round and weigh between 1 and 3 kilos. The rind is yellowish and the consistency is semi-hard, though buttery in the middle. The flavor is delicate at first, but after aging it develops a spiced finish.
When produced artisanally, on a small scale, the entire cheesemaking process is carried out by women, from tending the animals to producing the cheese to selling it. Milk is used from hardy, pasture-grazed breeds of cow, their diet supplemented by corn, tapioca, sweet potato leaves and forage.
If the cheese is not sold fresh (after 5 to 12 days) it can be preserved in various ways. The most common method is immersion in wine for 2 to 3 days, but the rind can also be rubbed with lard, annatto and pepper. The forms are then hung in a net for up to a year.
Cheeses under 3 months of age are eaten on their own or with polenta and bread, while the more mature cheeses are usually grated and used in cooking.
Seara municipality, western Santa Catarina state, South region
APACO (Association of Small-Scale Farmers in Western Santa Catarina)