Who makes better cheese , the goats or the people? It is a combo of people who tend the goats and allow the goats free range, and the goats who offer the milk. The goat owners value pure food without additives. Our guest expert, Robin Graham from Andalucía, visited a goat farm and surprisingly he didn’t go home with a pet goat.
One of Spain’s big draws, of course, is its food, but it isn’t all about restaurants and bars, paellas, tapas and tortillas. Every region of this country produces an exceptional artisanal food product, be it honey, wine, meat, or cheese.
Andalucia is no exception, and is home to a very singular breed of goat, the payoya, found mainly in its southernmost corner in Málaga and Cádiz provinces. They produce queso payoyo, a tangy and slightly sweeter-than-usual cheese which is much loved locally and even nationally, but little-known abroad.
The goat breed that produces this cheese, has faced extinction in the past and is these days tended, bred and documented with all the care that goes into the iberico pig. When I visited the Quesos Sierra Crestellina queseria to find out more about the cheese, I met some pretty pampered payoya goats. I was even asked to keep my voice down in the milking room, in case I stressed them out.
The dairy and its barns and enclosures are overlooked by a dramatic outcrop, almost sheer and impossible to climb, but not for the agile herd which is allowed to roam free over it when not being milked.
The lovingly cared for animals here produce a range of cheeses – fresh, semi-mature and mature and all are sold in the on-site shop which also stocks a variety of other products – wines, vinegars, oils and preserves which are made locally in the Ronda area. Before I leave I get to make some fresh cheese myself, dredging my hands through goat’s milk with added rennet for the solids, then gently squeezing them into a coil of woven straw on a ridged cheeseboard. It’s a first for me.
At home, we dressed the cheese in local oregano, a little rock salt and a good olive oil. Nothing ever tasted better.
Enquire about visits to the Quesos Sierra Crestellina queseria at http://www.quesossierracrestellina.es/visita_guiada_3.html
Tours are in Spanish but the owners have English too and are happy to translate.
Robin Graham writes about Andalusia, Spain and some other stuff. His stories can be found,with accompanying photography, at alotofwind.
He’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed: