Queijo Minas

I love cheese. I suppose it’s a weakness of mine (if it weren’t for cheese I’d probably have the body of an Olympic swimmer), but when something tastes so creamy, delicious and interesting, how can it be a bad?

Growing up in England, I was rather spoiled when it came to cheese. Not only were there all those excellent British cheeses (Cheddar, Stilton, Blue Wensleydale, etc), but the great cheeses of France were easily available too.

cheese-board

One of my happiest cheese-memories! This is what happened when I was let loose in a cheese shop in the south of France.

 

What I found during my travels around this continent is that although people ate a lot of quesoqueijo (Spanish / Portuguese) in empanadas, sandwiches, joelhos, arepas, etc, the type of cheese was rarely highlighted. It was just generic ‘cheese’. I’m sure more knowledgeable readers can tell me about all the fantastic South American cheeses that I’ve missed out on, but in my experience, cheese was mostly used as a tasty though unsophisticated filling alongside jamon / presunto (ham), rather than eaten for its own sake.

That being said, I’m happy to be able to report that Brazil has several excellent cheeses. My two favourites are both from the state of Minas Gerais.

Minas Frescal

queijo-minas-frescal

A Minas Frescal cheese. These are stored in a light, milky brine, rather like mozzarella.

 

This was the first cheese I was introduced to in Brazil and I’ll admit that I wasn’t immediately convinced. Frescal (a word connected to fresco – “fresh”) is well named – the process of changing it from milk to cheese takes just 4-10 days and the result is a very fresh, clean tasting cheese. The flavour is subtle and at first I didn’t really ‘get’ it – I thought it was entirely tasteless. Nowadays I’d say that a good Frescal can hold its own against against any similar style European cheese.

minas-queijo-frescal

This is a wet cheese and these specialised dishes are designed to catch the cloudy water that drains from the cheese after it is first unwrapped.

 

The texture is soft, slightly springy and creamy. It goes deliciously well in a crusty pão francês for breakfast and is also a popular party snack, cut into cubes and drizzled with olive oil.

 

Minas Curado

Queijo Minas comes in 2 other varieties and sadly for me, I only recently realised how different they are. Minas Padrão (Standard Minas) is a rather boring, rubbery cheese that reminds me of that cheap mozzarella you get in blocks. Minas Curado (Cured Minas) on the other hand is a very different animal.

queijo-minas-meia-curada

Minas Curado comes in 2 sub-types – Meia-Cura (half-cured) and Curado. This is a Meia-Cura cheese, showing the yellowish rind that forms as the cheese ages. Longer ageing brings a darker yellow rind, creamier texture and a stronger flavour. Image source

 

After following a similar production process to Frescal, this cheese is washed and salted and then stored for several weeks. This allows the cheese to develop a richer, slightly sour flavour. A rind forms on the outer surface and the inner cheese becomes firmer and creamier.

If I had a cheese shop (something I’ve dreamed about for years), I would proudly sell both Frescal and Curado alongside the great European cheeses.

 

Legalize-já!

The best/worst thing about these delicious cheeses from Minas is that I haven’t even tasted the really good ones yet! There is a law in Brazil that bans the export of unpasteurised cheeses across state lines, meaning that if you want to taste queijo de leite cru (cheese from raw milk), you have to go to Minas itself.

legalize_ja

 

Legalize-já” (Legalise it now!) is a phrase more commonly associated with the legalise marijuana campaign, but independent cheese makers have been using it to protest at this law which seems to favour large, industrial production techniques and restricts the sale and production of one of Brazil’s culinary treasures.

There has even been a film made about the cheese makers of Minas and their plight. Take a look at this clip – even if you don’t speak Portuguese, it’s worth it for the awesome shots of hands squidging into raw cheese at the beginning!:

 

 

That film came out a few years ago and, as far as I know, the law is still in place which seems rather sad. However, as the phrase goes, “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad…” (I’ll be making a cheese pilgrimage soon!).

**UPDATE!**

I am told that the law has been changed regarding the export of cheeses made from raw milk! …I still want to go on my cheese pilgrimage though…

queijo-de-canastra

Top of my wishlist, a cheese called Queijo de Canastra. Photo: Rusty Marcellini

39 replies
  1. Chris Wright
    Chris Wright says:

    Mmmm good cheese is one of life’s delights. From Spain I’d recommend the two cheeses ‘Manchego Curado’ from the region of Don Quijote ‘La Mancha’. And a strong blue cheese called Cabrales from Asturias in the north.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ah, Asturias! I have great memories of a short trip to Gijon and Oviedo. Did you ever try ‘Perceves’? I think in English they’re called Goose Barnacles. Really amazing food!

      I think the only Spanish cheese I specifically remember trying is manchego, but I always found it a bit dry. Probably I’ve been eating the really low quality stuff though…

      Reply
  2. mhgoncalves
    mhgoncalves says:

    OI Tom

    Voce sabe o que é queijo manteiga? tambem conhecido como queijo de mesa, requeijão do sertão ou requeijão do norte

    Já que voce gosta de queijo, espero que voce tambem goste deste.

    siga os links.

    http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queijo_manteiga

    http://youtu.be/x8xSBiFtQdo

    a proposito, Voce conhece outros queijos brasileiros, como o Reino, Cobodo, canastra, Colonia ou serrano (RS) e os feitos de cabra ?

    Tem este site que voce pode saber tudo a respeito de quijos no Brasil

    http://www.queijosnobrasil.com.br/

    divirta-se.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Olá M.

      É claro que há muito que eu preciso aprender sobre os queijos do brasil! 🙂

      Nunca ouvi de queijo de manteiga – isso é um ótimo nome para um queijo né? Imagino que é bem cremoso!

      Obrigado pelos links – depois tantos queijos, precisarei fazer uma dieta para emagracer! rs

      Reply
  3. Guy From England
    Guy From England says:

    Queejo manteiga does sound good from the name!

    Tom, I’ve gotta say I’m not impressed with the cheese here for the most part (although I have had some good smoked cheese from Mercado Central here in BH). I miss real British cheddar desperately. I used to get through kilos of the stuff!

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ah, good old cheddar. Real cheddar is just great isn’t it? I’ve seen some orange stuff here that is labelled ‘Cheddar’ but doesn’t bear any resemblance to the real thing.

      Have you tried this Queijo de Canastra?

      Reply
      • Guy From England
        Guy From England says:

        Nope, I’d never even heard of it but will keep my eyes open from now on!

        Real cheddar is so good, it makes almost any food better, to be honest. Except maybe some things like breakfast cereal or chocolate cake.

        Reply
        • tomlemes
          tomlemes says:

          Cool! If you track it down I’d love to hear if it’s worth the journey.

          Ha ha, I think a light sprinkling of grated cheddar could work on chocolate cake! 😉

          Reply
  4. Richard
    Richard says:

    Awesome article. Always willing to try new cheeses. Once had queijo Minas hours after the cow was milked obviously using un-pasteurized milk. Off to Minas in a few weeks for the first time so will keep my eyes open for that one. Ever tried Vacherin? Another awesome yet often illegal cheese.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Thanks Richard! Hmmm, Vacherin definitely rings a bell – I think I must have had it on one of the many family trips we made to France when I was a kid. Let me know if you discover any ‘must try’ cheeses on your trip. 🙂

      Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Me too! I have it for breakfast with pão frances. Then I go and spoil it all (according to Mrs Eat Rio) by adding a light spreading of Marmite! The perfect Anglo-Brazilian breakfast! 😉

      Reply
  5. John Napper
    John Napper says:

    That was fascinating. My experience is that the majority of Brazilian cheese (apart from gorganzola and parmesan which are made here, but not exactly Brazilian) is either fairly bland or totally devoid of any taste at all. The latter seems to be the preference of the locals that I know so asking for their help has not got me anywhere.

    I shall make a note of your recommendations for next time I go shopping.

    I did once come across something claiming to be queijo sabor cheddar, and it is as you describe in an answer to another comment – orange in colour and rubbery with no resemblance to any cheddar that I know of. Colour apart, it’s closer to the tasteless plastic stuff they use in McDonald’s. Even requeijão sabor cheddar tastes better.

    I spent last June in England and bought some fantastic Welsh cheddar from ‘The Cheese Boat’ on the Grand Union Canal which I brought back with me. Sadly it’s all gone now.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ah, I do crave cheddar regularly. I imagine that people visiting Britain must get a shock when they try real cheddar for the first time. “Wow! It actually has quite a strong flavour!”

      Minas Frescal definitely doesn’t have a great deal of flavour – it reminds me of mozzarella which is similarly mild and milky isn’t it? I’ve definitely noticed some variation in quality too – I usually get the one made by Sítio Solidão.

      Let me know how you get on with the Meia-cura and Curado versions of Minas. I only discovered them recently and I’m becoming a big fan!

      Reply
  6. Chris Wright
    Chris Wright says:

    My wife thinks it’s disgusting. And I feel like I’ve gone to the dark side betraying my roots, but I love mixing vegemite (and not marmite) with Cured Manchego Cheese and Anchovies on my bocadillos (Spanish baguette/sandwich). Salty as hell but tasty!

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ha ha ha! I get into serious trouble if I leave even a microscopic trace of Marmite on any other food container (there was an incident recently with traces of Marmite were (apparently) detected in the requeijão…).

      That bocadillo sounds great btw (and I’ve still got 3 hours til lunch 🙁 )

      Reply
  7. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    A. Marmite should be punishable by death.

    B. Speaking of queijo: a Swiss family brings livestock from their home country (and also some from Wisconsin I think) to then produce high quality French and Swiss cheese varieties in . . .Goiás.
    http://queijariaalpina.loja2.com.br/

    Order some. You won´t regret it.

    C. American chedder is better than British (he then drops the grenade and exits the premises).

    Reply
    • John Napper
      John Napper says:

      I have to admit that the only American cheese that I have encountered is nasty processed stuff. I presume that it must be possible to get real food in the USA alongside all the plastic that they export. It can’t all be McDonald’s. KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway. Domino’s etc. However, I doubt that they can improve on a good cheddar cheese.

      As I’m sure Tom will confirm, British cheddar covers a huge variety of cheese products, some of which are pretty awful. It’s best to steer clear of the mass-produced varieties although I really like Tesco Organic Farmhouse cheddar. It’s fair to say that organic cheddar does taste better, but you really need to go for the stronger varieties.

      I am hoping that the USA also has a good choice when it comes to cheddar cheeses, but I doubt it somehow. Maybe the mass-produced stuff is better than the British, but do they have anything to rival the really good hand-made cheddars?

      Reply
  8. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    John,

    I was just bothering Tom (don´t really know much about the intrinsicacies of cheddar to be honest – except that the cheddar I´ve had is yummy).
    I would imagine that there is great cheese made in the United States though – simple due to the high quality of livestock and subsequent milk in some regions (most notably the midwest). I guess a hindrance is that the average American (WASP) isn´t really into strong flavors and pungent odors.; but then again neither is the average Brazilian.

    Reply
  9. Alex
    Alex says:

    Olá Tom,

    Gotta tell you, I’m not a huge cheese person. I think mainly it smells like dirty body parts (ew) but I gotta pay respect to the few that I actually like….Minas being one of them.

    Others include
    1) Mozzarella
    2)Pepper Jack
    3) Munster

    That’s all folks!

    No offense, have fun enjoying your cheese 😀

    Abraço
    Alex

    Reply
  10. Richard
    Richard says:

    To cover the cheddar argument, as someone who has lived in all 3 countries: firstly cheddar is a place in Emgland so only cheese made there should be called that. USA ignores that Brazil adds tipo. The standard of artisanal cheeses in USA is truly excellent go to supermarkets and it is a bit bland same as UK but nothing as annoying as here in Brazil. The rule here seems to be adapted from original recipe to suit Brazilian palates/ideals. Makes business sense, just annoys the odd gringo

    Reply
    • John Napper
      John Napper says:

      That sounds a pretty good summary Richard. I agree about the use of the name, although I don’t think cheddar has legal protection, unlike stilton for example.

      In the Gringoes.com forum, I have seen people from the USA say that they miss American Sharp Cheddar which means nothing to me. I have no idea of what sharp means when referring to cheese, but suspect it just means strong and that they are referring to a US equivalent to something like Cathedral City. In your experience, is American Sharp Cheddar any good?

      Reply
  11. Nicolás
    Nicolás says:

    Fala aí Tom! tudo bem? espero que sim… ainda que não escrevI mais aqui continuo a dar uma olhada no teu blog de quando em quando, e esse seu post acerca de queijos não podia passar despercebido!

    Ahhh.. queijos! ó coisa boa! Esse canastra aí e o minas curado tem cara de ser bons.. quem dera eu pudesse ter uma peça pra mim (é “peça” que se fala aí? não sei porquê mas é essa a palavra que me vem à mente para essa roda inteira de queijo, aqui o nome é “horma”).
    Sempre me perguntei se por aí no Rio só tinham uns poucos queijos nacionais já que os utilizados normalmente nas comidas são o prato, minas, frescal, catupiry, muçarela, parmesão, talvez um provolone.. mas um roquefort, fontina, queijos com gosto mais intenso e essa consistência mais cremosa acho que só deve ser possível achá-los em supermercados grandes e maiormente na zona sul e alguns só se forem importados… né?

    Ainda que não coma esses muito amiúdo, eu gosto e quando estou no Rio sinto falta, acho que só de saber que aí não tem. Aqui em Buenos Aires em todos os bairros temos lojas chamadas fiambreria/queseria (fiambre é como chamamos os frios e produtos de charcutaria como presuntos cozidos e crus, salames, etc) que independentemente do nome vendem esse tipo de produtos e diferentes variedades de queijos: provolone, roquefort, fontina, gruyere, quartirolo, port-salut, muçarela, gouda, danbo, fymbo, camembert, parmesão e tantos outros que devo estar esquecendo são conhecidos por aqui e você encontra, se não todos pelo menos a maioria, facilmente em qualquer um desses estabelecimentos ou nos supermecados grandes como Carrefour. Não sei se são iguais aos feitos nas regiões de origem já que não tive acesso a esses, “os originais”, mas ainda assim para meu paladar os que provei foram bons.
    Nessas lojas, aliás, acostumam vender também pão de forma, azeitonas, e outras coisas afins (tudo pra você fazer o que nós chamamos “picada”), chegando a funcionar muitas vezes como armazéns, além de que até nestes é possível encontrar uma certa variedade (embora menor)..
    Já sabe: se vier por aqui não hesite em entrar numa dessas lojas!

    Bom, até mais,

    Nicolás

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Oi Nicolás! Tudo bem amigo! 🙂

      Provavelmente eu não sou a pessoa certa para perguntas sobre português (rs!), mas pode ser ‘pedaço’ em vez de ‘peca’?

      Como você disse, na Zona Sul tem outros queijos (tipo brie, camembert, roquefort), mas eles são bem caro, infelizmente 🙁 Estou com inveja ler aquela lista dos quiejos – não comi port salut em varias anos.

      Bem, vou disfrutar as coisas que Rio tem sim – o sol, as praias, pessoas simpaticas, comida brasileira, vistas incríveis, a floresta, caipirinhas, etc…. Não posso reclamar 😉

      Reply
      • Nicolás
        Nicolás says:

        kkkkk não esquenta não.. achei que vc soubesse, sendo que já leva um tempo morando aí… mas acho que é “peça” mesmo! (I think in english you call it wheel of cheese, don’t you?)
        pedaço tem mais o sentido de uma parte de algo (like if you said “chunk”, I think; and “peça” seems to be more akin to “piece”, while piece can be used as chunk too, depending the case it can be used to mean the whole of something, if I’m not wrong).

        É, aqui também são caros os queijos (na verdade tudo está caro pela inflação). Embora a gente não consoma essa variedade toda no dia a dia (em casa só compramos muçarela e port-salut para consumo diário) dá pra comprar algum pedacinho de provolone ou roquefort de vez em quando. Por exemplo: empanadas de jamón+roquefort ou provolone+panceta(bacon) são quase tão comuns por aqui quanto as coxinhas aí…

        kkkkkkkkkk Você com inveja dos queijos, e eu com inveja das praias, o calor e as vistas! não vejo a hora do verão chegar (e com ele minhas férias) pra eu dar um pulo por aí.

        Reply
  12. Marina
    Marina says:

    Your blog is my new drug of choice! Lol….
    I’m from Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais and i urge you to visit my hometown and tastes our cheese! Minas Gerais is known for its cheese, achaças, pão de queijo (made with real cheese) and doces de frutas feitos no tacho (don’t know how to translate it). If you like food, you must go to Minas Gerais! My partner always says it would be nice to live in Rio and eat in Minas. We have minas curado, minas meia cura, minas frescal, canastra curado, canastra meia cura, queijo manteiga and many more. Desserts are usually served with chease. Goiabada with cheese is an absolute must have (or should i say must eat?). Oh, and if you like art (nothing to do with cheese, Google Inhotim).IIt’s in Minas too! Lol… i could be a travel agent!

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Marina – you know what they say: “Just say yes to blogs” 😉

      I would love to do a proper tour of Minas and you are just persuading me even more! Actually, I thought I had said this already, but I can’t find it on this post – I think a tour of Minas would be a brilliant thing for tourists to do – visit some cheese makers (with lots of taster samples of course!), then visit a cachaça distillery (again, LOTS of tasters!). And I just searched on Inhotim – it looks amazing!

      I also heard that Tiradentes is lovely. I must go soon!

      Reply
  13. Marina
    Marina says:

    Minas is a huge state! Tiradentes and Ouro Preto are relatively far apary (people say that all mineiros think that places are “pertinho” because our state ir huge so we have a diferent idea of what is close and what is far). Ouro Preto is a bigger town and has more restaurantes that are open all year. Tirandetes helds a cinema festival the end of january and beggining of february and they have many reaturants that only open on these ocasions. I’ve been there and loved it! In Ouro Preto tourism is a great part of the economy so you have distillery tours and stuff like that. I dont know a cheese tour, but im sure its possible to visit the farms. Canastra cheese is made in Serra da Canastra, wich is far from Ouro Preto. I’ve met farms where the cheesemis made by small families.

    If you do go to Minas, write me so i can give you some hints. Nowadays in live in Curitiba, but if im there i can take you and Mrs Eat Rio to some of those places and we can have a cafézinho com rapadura or maybe a cachacinha com pastel de angu.

    Nhotim is my faborite place on earth…

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ah! That sounds absolutely lovely! Thanks Marina! I know from experience that having tips from a local is very important. I know I am not a true local, but I still like to give suggestions for people who come to Rio.

      So now I just have to find some time off work…

      Reply
  14. AnaQ
    AnaQ says:

    Hey Tom, have you ever taken Brazilian cheese abroad? I’ve taken cheese from Mexico to the United States so it seemed like an obvious thing for me to try. However, someone just told me today that Minas cheese doesn’t travel well. What do you think?

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Ana – it very much depends on which type of Minas cheese you’re talking about. I think that Minas Frescal would be the biggest problem – it is very wet (imagine it leaking in your suitcase – nightmare!) and doesn’t last long – you need to keep it cool and eat it quickly.

      I would say that Minas Padrão, Minas Meia Cura and Minas Curado (all dryer and more aged) should be totally fine. I’d wrap it in a couple of bags (ideally buy one that is totally sealed so you don’t have any problems with smells!) and it should be fine. I’m not sure what the laws are about bringing cheese into the US are, but I know plenty of people who break such rules all the time (not me, of course!) 😀

      Reply
  15. Laura
    Laura says:

    Hey Tom!
    I gotta tell you: esse seu post quase me fez chorar. hahaha Sou uma adoradora de queijos também, vim pra Londres há um ano e meio e vou te dizer que andei reclamando dos queijos daqui :X … Talvez porque sinta falta dessa coisa meio queijo-fresco do Brasil (ai que saudade de um bom queijo minas no café da manha..ou a tarde, ou a noite..), ou também porque, como vc deve imaginar, Londres nao me deixa muito dinheiro sobrando pra investir em queijos potencialmente bons como os que eu me pego babando sobre no Borough Market. Me resta comprar o mais-ou-menos cheddar encontrado no supermercado. E, como vc pode imaginar, uma vida mais-ou-menos triste devido a falta de bons queijos. Portanto, nao custa nada perguntar: vc tem alguma ideia de onde encontrar ou de que tipo de queijo procurar pra ter uma vida mais feliz no sentido queijo aqui em Londres sem sair da experiencia sem dinheiro para me alimentar de outras coisas? hahah
    Seu blog é uma dádiva em dias de saudade pra mim. Por algum motivo que ainda nao entendi bem acho incrível e me identifico MUITO ao ler essa visao meio ao contrário de mundo pela minha perpectiva de carioca, morando na Inglaterra e adoradora do comer como ponto alto na vida. Algo sobre vc percebendo as maravilhas gastronomicas desse meu Rio e as descrevendo com uma deliciosa precisão sob o olhar inglês me faz querer até tentar fazer o mesmo do lado de cá.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Oi Laura! Ahhhh, queijo! Há muitos lá que são ótimos, mais tristemente, são caros também. Acho que o jeito mais barato é para ‘provar’ (muitos) nos mercados como Borough, Leadenhall, etc. Também, adoro Neal’s Yard Dairy. Você já provou ‘Stinking Bishop’? É bem forte, mas cremoso também. Se você conseguir achar ‘Blue Wendsleydale’, acho que voce vai adorar.

      Acho que você deve fazer a mesma coisa lá (fazer um blog sobre seu vista da inglaterra). É sempre interessante ver um outra vista de um lugar que você já conhece, hein?

      Reply
  16. Laura
    Laura says:

    BTW, a tip: if you don’t have much time to go to Minas but can’t control the urges to taste it’s flavours anymore, the area of Visconde de Mauá might be a very, very good call. Have you ever been there? If you go up Maringá and Maromba, then, it just gets better and better! Altough still Rio or almost Rio, they have all the amaziness foods Minas has to offer and even the accent so you can feel more like being there. I have some crazy good tips of places for amazing-unexpensive cheese, home made jams and compotas to accompany (plus a crazy pinhão beer if you feel adventurous) just shout and I will be happy to pass on a list!

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Wow, I haven’t been to Maringá or Maromba but would love to visit. I would LOVE to hear your tips, especially that pinhão beer which sounds bizarre!! If you can send me some dicas, that would be brilliant!

      Reply

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