Its distinctive flavor is a conjunction of at least three factors: casina exclusive cow's milk, an autochthonous breed dedicated mainly to the production of meat, with a very limited yield in dairy production, but that when grazing in very rich and exclusive places generates a high-fat milk. The second of the factors is the rennet used, made from dried pork stomach, which gives the cheese a unique flavor. And the third, the strictly artisan process that is followed throughout the elaboration and the curing time.
The origin of Casín cheese it is actually unknown, but it is clear that it is very old. Legend has it that after the battle of Covadonga, the casinos gave Don Pelayo a cheese so large that in order to transport it, a local car had to be used. Until the seventeenth century, cheese, along with butter, was a common kind of payment. As well Jovellanos, in his letters to Ponz, gives an account of the «extraordinary success» of Casín cheese in Paris.
As ancestral as its origin is it's taste. It is surprising for the layman to taste such an intense cheese in all aspects; fatty like few others (with a minimum of 55 percent fat), untamed in its aftertaste, and very nutritious due to its high protein and calcium value. Its color is yellowish, with whitish tones, creamy and without rind. Its very powerful aroma. Its texture is firm and compact, somewhat coarse. The taste is strong and somewhat spicy, a bit wildDifficult to assimilate for certain palates, with the rustic aroma of very cured butter, persistent and slightly bitter at the end of the mouth. Its most common weight is about 250 grams and it is coined with a stamp that gives it a very characteristic relief and gives it more personality if possible.
Casin cheese is a very worked cheese, a "woman's cheese" could be said, because the industriousness, the care and the care that requires its elaboration have always required the female hands. It is women casinos who have the secrets, who learned from their mothers and grandmothers, and those who currently continue with the elaboration.
The process starts by heating the milk to about 35 degrees or at the temperature of the blood: when, throwing a drop on the back of the hand, neither cold nor heat is felt. This is explained by oral tradition. Then it is added artisanal rennet from dried stomach of pork. Once the rennet is drained, it is left to dry wrapped in a cloth, no more than fifteen days, then it is passed through the kneading machine and the gorollos are formed, truncated cone-shaped portions that have to be reeled up (go through the roller) , repeating the process over and over again. The rest time is a fundamental factor that will have a great influence on the power of flavor and spiciness that you want to achieve. The longer, the more strength the cheese is taking.
The next operation is to go back to knead the "gorollos", this process can be repeated twice to make a soft cheese, and up to ten for the most spicy and strong. The more thinner the cheese becomes, the better it will heal and the taste will be fuller. This is because the microorganisms that are deposited, naturally, on the cheese, are incorporated into the dough in each rabiladura.
When it is considered that the last pass has been given to the dough, It is carefully molded by hand, giving it a spherical shape and then beating it against the table to obtain circular and flat pieces.
Finish the manipulation by marking the cheese on the upper side with a wedge. The identifying sign of the house. After a cure of two or three months in a cool and ventilated place, the cheese is ready to be consumed.
Coinciding with the last Saturday in August, the annual Casín cheese contest is held in La Collada de Arnicio, dividing the Nalón and Sella basins, where artisans who make this cheese come.
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Text: © Ramón Molleda for asturias.com