This cheese is unique in its semantics, It is named in Asturian and does not support an exact translation or a clear etymology. It would literally mean "to drown the chicken." It could be defined as a primitive "puñu" cheese whose name promotes different meanings. There are those who understand that it refers to the strangulation of the neck of the bag where it is out (fardela). Others prefer to refer to the difficulties it offers to be ingested, to the peculiarity of sticking to the palate and pharynx (pitu in colloquial Asturian) during its tasting. In this case, the throat was clogged when it was eaten very cured due to the high fat content. Finally, there are those who maintain that it has traditionally been used as food in the raising of village chicken (pitu), or more exactly: it was given to the chicken to taste it, and if it was difficult for the chicken to swallow it then the cheese was fine. done.
Another particularity of this cheese is that the coagulation of milk is eminently acidic. In its final appearance it presents a blind cut, of white-yellowish bark, or orange if paprika is used, and granular texture. The flavor is creamy, unctuous and strong, tending to acid, with a very particular aroma that makes this dairy derivative one of the most charismatic of Asturias. Its weight oscillates between the 200 and 600 grams and we can taste it fresh, semi-cured or cured.
It is made mainly with pasteurized Friesian cow milk, and its production area covers the central-western area of Asturias. After the Denomination of Origin, the elaboration is restricted to 13 municipalities. It occurs all year round, mainly in winter and spring.
Depending on the area, the definitive shape of the cheese varies. We will find conical shaped cheeses in Grado, Pravia or Cornellana. In these “Atroncaos”, the curd is passed into frusto-conical molds (called basins) in small portions. The cheeses are removed from the mold the next day, salted and either sold fresh, or they are passed to ripening chambers where they remain from 15 to 30 days and in which the temperature and humidity are controlled so that the cheese goes curing slowly and can develop the characteristic aromas. Those that have a final form of zucchini are more typical of Riosa or Morcín. In the latter case, the curd is introduced into a cloth of the appropriate size or "trapu", a bag is formed, it is drained and it is hung so that it is slowly dewatering while the lactic fermentation continues. In the variety Red of this cheese, before introducing it into the rags or molds, as the case may be, it is conveniently kneaded with sweet and spicy paprika in proportions to the taste of the producer, at the same time as it leaves.
From 1981, it has been celebrated in the municipality of Morcín Afuega el Pitu Cheese Contest, to which all the processors of the zone go. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after January's 17.
It is sold throughout the Spanish territory and for some years in the United States, Mexico, Germany, Holland or Japan. Of the ten industrial dairies, six of which were formed after granting the designation of origin in 2004, it is generated an approximate annual production of 220.000 kilos.
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Text: © Ramón Molleda for asturias.com