Quesos de España – A Great Source

I took a break from decoding menus from restaurants in Spain to look at cheeses that originate in Spain. I’ve done this type of investigation before (previously for Italy) and it’s a challenging task. Names of cheeses can be very inconsistent from different sources. Even with DOP names now more common there can still be inconsistencies.

And, of course, using any online source for raw material has the challenge that its author may be wrong or misspelled names or introduced other errors. And consolidating all the names found in different sources is difficult to automate while simultaneously this is a large quantity of information to attempt to mentally collate especially when one is not conversant in the language.

I’ll explain my process below but in case you just want the excellent source I found I’ll describe it first, even though it was after a lot of searching I discovered it.


While it’s entirely in Spanish and as a PDF not subject to Google Translate when accessed through the web browser this is a very nice document: CATÁLOGO ELECTRÓNICO DE QUESOS DE ESPAÑA (slow to download but worth the wait).

It has pictures of the cheeses and even some of the animals for the milk plus standardized descriptions including items like: Zona de Elaboración (processing area), Ingredientes (ingredients), Tipo de Queso (cheese type), Aspecto Exterior (outward appearance) and Aspecto Interior (interior appearance).

And then even more helpful is this section, Características Organolépticas (Organoleptic  characteristics, I had to look up the English definition on this which is “acting on or involving the use of the sense organs”), which then includes: Textura al Tacto (texture to touch), Olor (odor), Textura en Boca (texture in mouth), Aroma (aroma), Sabor (flavor), Otras Sensaciones (other sensations), Gusto Residual (residual taste), Persistencia (persistence). In case you’re not sure what Gusto Residual means here it is for Gamonedo cheese (from  Principado de Asturias):

El gusto después de ser tragado es: a avellana, con predominio suave de humo (The taste after being swallowed is: a hazelnut, with soft predominance of smoke.)

And here is an example of Persistencia for Curado (cured/aged) Mahón-Menorca cheese:

Media-elevada, presencia de mantequilla fundida, aceite de oliva y caldo de carne. Entre quince y treinta segundos  (Medium-high, presence of melted butter, olive oil and meat broth. Between fifteen and thirty seconds)

In addition to this extensive, informative and attractive PDF there is another part of this site where you can filter the list of cheeses, i.e. Buscador de quesos (Cheese Finder (aka Search Engine)). The filters are: Seleccione (Select): Comunidad Autónoma (Autonomous Community), tipo de leche (milk type), calidad diferenciada, régimen de calidad (differentiated quality, quality regime).  So for example I did search for cow’s milk (leche de vaca) cheeses from Cantabria and all (todas) quality regimes and got:

Marca

(mark or brand)

Tipo

(type)

Procedencia Leche

(Origin of milk)
Comunidad Autónoma

(Autonomous Community)

Picón-Bejes-Tresviso D.O.P. Leche de vaca CANTABRIA
Queso Nata de Cantabria D.O.P. Leche de vaca CANTABRIA
Queso Pasiego Sin figura de calidad comunitaria reconocida

(No recognized community quality figure)
Leche de vaca CANTABRIA

After finding the list you can click on the cheese name for the full information page equivalent to the CATÁLOGO pages. You could either use the search tool to find a cheese you might want to try (some Spanish cheeses can be obtained online) or browse the CATÁLOGO.


back to my process for compiling a list of cheeses

But undaunted by these challenges, from past experience, I decided it was time to assemble a complete and accurate list. This only slightly matters for reading menus at restaurants and more likely would be useful for purchases at retail establishments but again knowing what you’re eating in another country is the inspiration for my project.

So I proceeded with the usual suspects, first doing several Google searches (to get the terms right to provide the best source materials) and then following several promising sources. As usual Wikipedia had a useful page List of Spanish cheeses with a fairly long list (fortunately tagged by region) with some links to pages for the more common cheeses. Having processed this list I immediately assumed the Spanish language version of Wikipedia would possibly have an even better list and it did – Quesos de España. Another seemingly authoritative source, Spanish Cheese Guide, covers all (?) of the DOP names.

From all these sources I generated a single list which required picked a “canonical” name and then finding all the variations from the sources. For example this cheese, Arzúa-Ulloa, appeared in all my sources (compiled thus far) but as you can see under quite different names even including a misspelling.

Queso Arzúa-Ulloa (P.D.O.) Galicia 1 link
Arzula Illoa 2 link
Arzúa Galicia 3
Arzúa-Ulloa Galicia 5 link
Arzúa-Ulloa Galicia 6 link

So after consolidating the list from five sources and choosing what appears to the the “standard” name (for those cheeses that appear on more than one list) here is what I believe is a fairly comprehensive lists:

Abredo, Acehúche, Afuega’l Pitu, Ahumado de Pría, Alhama de Granada, Alpujarras, Andalucía de cabra, Ansó-Hecho, Aracena, Arribes de Salamanca, Arzúa-Ulloa, Babia y Laciana, Barros, Benasque, Beyos¸Buelles, Burgos, Cabrales, Cáceres, Cádiz, Camerano, Campo Real, Campoo-Los Valles, Casín, Cassoleta, Castellano, Cebreiro, Colmenar Viejo, Flor de Guía, Fresnedillas de la Oliva, Gamonedo, Garrotxa, Gata-Hurdes, Gaztazarra, Genestoso, Gran Canaria, Grazalema, Guriezo, Herreño, Ibores, Idiazábal, L’alt Urgell y La Cerdanya, La Adrada, La Bureba, La Calahorra, La Gomera, La Montaña de León, La Nucía, La Peral, La Serena, La Siberia, La Sierra de Espadán, La Vera, Lanzarote, Letur, Los Montes de Toledo, Mahón-Menorca, Majorero, Málaga, Mallorquí, Manchego, Mató, Miraflores, Montsec, Murcia, Murcia al vino, Nata de Cantabria, Oropesa, Oscos, Ossera, Palmero, Pasiego, Pastor, Pata de mulo, Pedroches. Peñamellera, Picón Bejes-Tresviso, Pido, Quesaílla, Quesucos de Liébana, Requeixo, Roncal, San Simón da Costa, Serrat, Servilleta, Sierra Morena, Tenerife, Teruel, Tetilla, Tiétar, Torremocha del Jarama, Torta del Casar, Trapo, Tronchón, Tupí, Urbiés, Valdeón, Valle de Alcudia, Valle del Narcea, Vidiago, Villalón, Zamorano

There are around 30 more where I’ve found at least one mention but I’ll have to search for each of these individually (once I have the complete list) to see if these cheeses really exist (at least currently) or are just a spurious mention in some online list.

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A circuitous route to the right answer?

I was doing my usual process of researching entries in the GallinaBlanca diccionario. For a word, get their definition in Spanish, translate to English via spanishdict.com, translate the term itself to see if there is simple literal translation. Then consider the result and see if this makes sense or whether I need to do further searches (and then with what search terms) to figure this term out, at least the way the author of GB diccionario meant.

I was starting with Q words and the first was quark. Right away I knew these would be a problem in my approach since ‘quark’ is a word in English and thus spanishdict would be looking for the equivalent Spanish term. But looking at the definition and translation

QUARK Es el queso no madurado ni escaldado, alto en humedad, de textura blanda o suave, preparado con leche descremada y concentrada, cuajada con enzimas y/o por cultivos lácticos y separados mecánicamente del suero, cuyo contenido de grasa láctica es variable, dependiendo si se agrega crema o no durante su elaboració It is the unripened or scalded cheese, high in moisture, soft or soft texture, prepared with skim milk and concentrated, curdled with enzymes and/or by lactic cultures and mechanically separated from the serum, whose lactic fat content is variable, depending on whether Cream is added or not during your Elaboració

I tried search terms ‘quark cheese’ which then quickly disclosed this article in Wikipedia and the translated definition and the article align nicely to strongly suggest this is it. I’m sorta a foodie and know cheese reasonably well but I’d never heard of this (it’s close, but still a bit than ricotta than is made in a similar fashion). But what was interesting is that the Wikipedia article mentions this:

Quark is similar to French fromage blanc, Indian paneer, and the queso fresco/queijo fresco made in the Iberian Peninsula and in some Latin American countries.

That peaked my interest in that I’m quite familiar with queso fresco so I assumed queijo fresco might be the version in Spain instead of the more familiar Latin American name (wrong, now, I think, that was probably the Portuguese name given it too is on the Iberian peninsula – shouldn’t jump to conclusions). But no harm, no foul, this article popped up in response to search for queijo fresco. So I’d say queso blanco is the closest equivalent to quark for Spain. So strange, a dictionary for use in Spain has the English name instead of the Iberian name (nowhere in this dictionary). I guess the point is that Iberian cooks would already know queso blanco but never heard of quark and so this dictionary is explaining the foreign term rather than the domestic one (why then, with this idea, didn’t they just define quark as queso blanco? This dictionary has a large number of terms that are not Spanish (or at most Spanish cognates to words that originated in another language). Why? As I’ve found more and more of this I’ve wondered and decided it’s an aid to Spanish cooks (given this dictionary is tied to a large list of recipes) in case they encounter the foreign term.

So done with that term right away I hit another interesting term to run down. Here’s the GallinaBlanca definition and spanishdict translation:

QUEBRADA Masa quebrada o brisé. Una masa para tartas saladas o dulces. Las proporciones son mitad de mantequilla y doble de harina. Broken mass or brisé. A dough for salty or sweet tarts. The proportions are half of butter and double of flour.

Looking up quebrada for a literal translation spanishdict suggested trying quebrado instead. This is common since it’s the gender thing in adjectives and usually the dictionary contains the masculine (‘o’ instead of ‘a’) form. quebrado has meaning translations none of which seemed to have any connection (didn’t key on ‘broken’ or lookup brisé and I might have gotten to the answer sooner). So I did a search just for quebrada and got nothing that had any connection. So looking at the definition I decided to add ‘dough’ to the search and then got something that at least made some sense, this article,  which is about gordita, but has this bit

An old variant of corn gorditas uses masa quebrada (broken dough) where the corn meal is coarsely ground, leaving bits of broken grain.

I was happy to see quebrada (turns out spanishdict’s suggestion was right, I should have noticed ‘broken’ as a translation of quebrado). BUT, I thought a gordita is: a) a lot different than the definition GallinaBlanca provided, and, b) this is Latin American, not Spain, and while the GB dictionary has had other terms that don’t seem to be used in Spain I always try to figure out if the Spain term is different (as in the notorious example of tortilla, entirely different between anywhere in western hemisphere (given tortilla is now fully a loanword into U.S. English) and Spain).

So I did a search for masa quebrada and I got one of those strange connections between Google search and Wikipedia I’ve mentioned before. Nowhere in the displayed text for the article that came up is either masa or quebrada, but somehow Google connected this too. For this example it’s good it did as ‘shortcrust pastry’ is a much closer match to the GB definition, especially this bit:

It is based on a “half-fat-to-flour” ratio (twice as much flour as fat by weight).

And then there is this bit, pâte brisée is mentioned as one of the types of shortcrust pastry (a bit different flour/fat ratio) and that triggered my connection to the untranslated term in the GB definition, brisé (which is in none of the dictionary, including the authoritative one for the Spanish language (Diccionario de la lengua Española from Real Academia Española) but the similarity might just mean it really is supposed to be the French word and they misspelled it (who knows). I call this closing the loop.

So I believe that quebrada is shortcrust pastry, but in fact quebrado is a better choice since it does have broken (and no more) as its definition where quebrada doesn’t. But perhaps dough is thought of as feminine and hence ‘a’ was used despite then conflicting with another literal lookup. I assume the author and perhaps people reading this dictionary would know that but it’s quite a bit of investigation for me. And I’m fairly sure this is not related to a gordita which provided the clue for subsequent search to the right answer.

Now I suspect this term is unlikely to appear on a menu and instead one of the 87 recetas at GallinaBlanca use it as an ingredient and those names might be on a menu. But some menus have descriptions of an item and so it’s possible quebrada might be something a traveler would want to know and not spend nearly half an hour, as I did, figuring this out.