Serra da Estrela: Rich and Fruity

November 30, 2010

Serra da Estrela is not a meek cheese.  It announces itself with an intense aroma, follows with a flavor to match, and creates a lazy mess on one’s plate.  My son who loves washed rind stinkers picked this one out at the cheese shop and pronounced it delicious.

Serra da Estrela carries the name of the region in Portugal where it is produced.  This region is the highest area of Continental Portugal and is home to shepherds and their sheep.  Serra da Estrela is hand made at farmhouses from a 2,000-year-old recipe that uses raw sheep’s milk, cardoon thistle and salt.  The cheese is produced in a short cylindrical format.

Serra da Estrela has a smooth and greasy rind.  The rind is golden yellow with red-orange bruises.  The cheese’s interior paste looks like vanilla pudding.  To the touch, the paste is wet, sticky and clings to one’s fingers like glue.

Serra da Estrela has an intense aroma that is similar to a toddler’s feet: stinky, but sweet.

The cheese is sweet with a fruity flavor profile.  Serra da Estrela has some tangy and salty flavors, but these are over-shadowed by its sour fruitiness.  The cheese also has an underlying sweetness.  The cheese’s flavors are rich and intense and they linger in the mouth long after eating.  On the tongue, Serra da Estrela’s is thick, smooth and pasty.

Serra da Estrela is an intense, rich and flavorful cheese.  We all liked this cheese, but a little of this cheese goes a long way.

Serra da Estrela is often served whole as a party cheese, where its top is removed and the cheese is passed around for communal dipping with spoons.  Any other method would not make for a nice party presentation as this cheese becomes oozy when out of refrigeration.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Serra da Estrela at Cheese Plus (San Francisco).  On advice from the cheesemonger, we pulled the cheese out of refrigeration 90 minutes before eating and covered it with a glass dome.

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