Cabrales cheese is well worth a tribute like this, in the form of a living museum and ethnographic teaching. It is difficult to highlight the virtues of this dairy without referring to the shepherds of the Picos and the people in general of these lands, since theirs is the tradition, from the time cattle graze in the mountains until the rennet matures in the cavernous cracks of this limestone and wild region.
Why visit the Cave-Museum?
The most popular cheese of Asturias is explained in an underground journey of unique character. The cave is located on the outskirts of the town of Arenas, on the right bank of the road that leads to Poncebos, on the banks of the emblematic Cares River, at the very doors of the National Park. The first thing we find is the Perfect replica of a typical mountain cabin, and it is not by chance, but because under these rustic ceilings is where the flame of custom and cheese-making began and continues to live. In it the first stages of the elaboration of Cabrales take place. We discover in the household goods and tools that everything has a magical alpine vocation, in which the cattle occupy a unique throne, since their careful and native nutrition is essential for the milk to have a cabraliego name. The cabin also shows us its dimension as a place of living and hard work in the sheepfolds..
The route can be followed by free, following the explanatory panels and the graphic material inside the cave, or during a perfectly illustrated guided tour, which lasts about half an hour. The detailed story unravels the names and purpose of each of the elements used in the development of Cabrales: pots (to heat the milk), "cuayar" (the stomach of a suckling kid that once dried over the fire and after macerating for two days secretes a liquid called rennet), the beech wood spoon used to cut the "cuayada" obtained by adding the rennet to the milk, «arniu» (mold for cheese pieces), letter or wooden sign that is inserted under the mold to mark the cheese and differentiate it in the maturing cave, «canastra» oval shape covered with fern where the cheeses are deposited to transport them to the cave) ...
Names and phases of the work become confused in a unique semantics, which ultimately refers constantly to a popular essence, that which has the double virtue of illusioning the cabraliegos by the product obtained, and of astonishing the palates of half the world after the product consumed. A correspondence that has one of its main channels of communication in the second part of this museum cave, a totemic corner, the most natural and collected temple of cheese, which we discovered by raising our heads, in a narrow gallery of sparse light, maturing on hardwood shelves. In this hollow the texture of the cheese and the walls of the cavern seem to evolve towards a perfect harmony in colors and reliefs.
Before, however, someone will have explained to us the previous work in the dairies, both in the traditional cheese factories, as in the most modern ones, in which the instruments have been renewed to adapt to the health requirements. The latter have their replica inside the cave, and they highlight the modern machinery to keep the milk at the right temperature; a large metal tank where the rennet is poured to obtain the curd which, in turn, will be cut with a kind of metallic lyre so that it is detached from the whey. Now the "arnios" are made of plastic.
The objective of this museum initiative, which arises from the Regulatory Council of the Denomination of Origin and which is managed by the Foundation for the Promotion and Diffusion of Cabrales Cheese is, as has been said, publicize all the convergent aspects of Cabrales cheese: cultural, gastronomic, ethnographic and physical; which are the ones that round off this exquisite product of such ancestry and so deserved worldwide fame. If you have occasion travel back in time in this way and return to the present with more knowledge of home, and more criteria to properly savor this historical cheese.
Arenas de Cabrales, s / n. 33550, Cabrales
Contact number: 985 84 67 02
Open winter, check visiting hours.
Spring-summer open every day.
Schedule: from 10: 00 to 14: 00 hours and evenings from 16: 00 to 20: 00 hours. The last visit is always 45 minutes before the closing time.
Pricing: adult 4,50 €, child 3,00 € and group 3,50 € previous reservation.
Text: © Ramón Molleda for asturias.com