June 23, 2016 – Day 12 – Serpa
Rather than jumping back and forth between Spain and Portugal, I have decided to finish all of the Portuguese cheese in the book I am using and then continue back into Spain. Essentially, this is what we will be doing on our journey anyways – traveling to Spain, then Portugal, and then back to Spain once more. The text I am using World Cheese Book only has a total of 9 Portuguese cheeses, so there will be plenty of articles to wrap them up and continue onward to Espania! This is the 5th of 9 total. The Portuguese Cheese of the day is Serpa!
About the Cheese:
Hailing from Breja, Portugal, this semi-soft cheese is produced from the milk of Laconne ewes (sheep) and aged for at least a 30 day period. The Alentejo region of Portugal, where Beja is located, possesses a rather hot and dry climate with sparse grazing for the sheep. Serpa is very similar to another Portuguese cheese, Serra da Estrela, with the largest difference being that Serra is produced with Bordeleira da Serra da Estrela sheep’s milk. Both cheeses are fermented with cardoon thistle as opposed to animal rennet. Since Serpa is aged only 30 days, its is a fresh cheese and therefore DOES contain lactose. Remember, the older and more firm the cheese is, the less lactose it contains. The category of animal milk used (cow, sheep, goat, etc) does not have a major influence on the lactose content.
Tasting Notes and Pairings:
The text states it best with,
“A full, creamy cheese, Serpa is soft, clean, and slightly salty on the palate, with a tangy finish. The cardoon or thistle rennet used to make it adds a lightly acidic aftertaste and slight bitterness.” ¹
Since it is such a soft cheese, the pate is easily scoop-able once the surface is removed. It is recommended to do this, dip the inner cheese out with crackers or firm bread, and then use the remaining cheese/rind to bake! To be exact, the addition of baking it whilst filled with potatoes and onions is recommended to be an absolute treat. Similarly, the cheese can also stand alone on a cheese board as an aperitif. To get the most of Serpa, nibble one it with a nice red wine of your choosing. Cheers!
Source 1 – World Cheese Book, Juliet Harbutt, New York, New York, 2009, 148.