The itinerary starts at eleven o'clock in the morning or seven o'clock in the afternoon. You visit a modern cheese factory, inside an old house rebuilt according to the aesthetic canons of the usual Asiego. There, with attentive eyes, the guests follow the explanations of how an artisan Cabrales cheese is made. And they are interested, they ask, they want to know every last detail. And why can milk get sour? And what is rennet? How do you recognize a good cheese?
The farmhouses, the granary, the sheepfolds ...
Once again outdoors, take a short walk around Asiego to show the hallmarks of a territory and incidentally erase some topic among those who do not know. With his hand pointing to the horizon of his municipality, Javier Niembro, the geographer, explains what the councils, the parishes, the villages, the agrarian terms are. Then he focuses on a house, and from that house he picks out a detail. The small windows, for example, are small due to the lack of glass at that time, but there are also those who say that they have the necessary size, that of a chamber pot. smiles. A farmhouse is a set of hórreo, meadows, and a house built with endogenous materials, the limestone of the Picos de Europa and the wood of the forests, with a corridor always focused on the south so that the sun hits it and the crops dry. The roof has stones to resist the wind. The hórreos were anti-rodent and humidity constructions. He also explains some social change. In the 50's everyone went to the cities, in the 70's many built in Asiego to spend the summer and they did it away from the architectural criteria proposed by the environment. Soot kitchens were replaced by tiles, clay tiles by corrugated iron and slate. Now, the villagers explain, it seems that people are returning and there is more construction of second homes. The new houses are more respectful of the essence than the previous ones. But the people who come back are also of legal age; people who left as a child. The rate of aging of the towns is high and is growing little by little.
Leaving the village proper amounts one up the erias, traditionally the cereal areas, in the words of Manuel Niembro, the eldest of the brothers. The farms were submitted to private property. But in November, when the cows came down from the high pastures to the low ones, in months when there was no cultivation, walls collapsed so that the cattle could roam freely and the land was converted into communal land. In February the common masonry works returned. In short, the cycles of the economic activity of the town, summarized Manuel after an explanatory talk.
Las Llosas They are the high areas that surround the erías. A larger piece of land to be used by the community. In a town, the collective feeling prevails over the individual, dominates the sense of the public, highlights the young geographer. Two zones exist in the Llosas: the coastal pastures and the port. Several ports, even today, are operated jointly, such as Asiego-Carreña, Asiego-Porrúa. And in the ports there are the sheepfolds, the scattered cabins for the accommodation of the shepherd during the light transhumance of the summer. Now many are in ruins, abandoned.
Cabrales Cheese Cave
And the ancient symbiosis of man with his environment is still explained. Now, 8 in the afternoon, it's the turn of a cave where cheese is still being cured in a traditional way. And the cave, as Manuel describes, is seen to be alive and to contribute all of its being to the cheese. There is the penicillium fungus, the lichens on the walls, the acidic waters and a constant but negligible flow of karst skin. In the middle of the cave, some topic is also broken. No, Cabrales cheese is not cured in manure and does not have worms. Faces of satisfaction among some, some disappointment in the most romantic. Manuel comforts the latter, if they had worms it wouldn't be bad either, it is already known that avant-garde gastronomy is that of insects.
Microorganisms, landscapes and men continue to coexist on a route through the laboratory. Aldeology advances walking along the caleyes. High. A livestock farm. Here, in Cabrales, a liter of milk is the most expensive in the region. After the denomination of origin and the creation of the regulatory council, Cabrales cheese can only contain milk from cows that graze in the regulated area.
The pumarada and the llagar of cider
Back to the village, leaving behind the rumor of the milking machine and the heat of the stables, when it gets dark, an ointment is examined, its production is explained and that of other crops, mowing. And it is summarized at the end of the talk: They are the seasons, the natural cycles on which agriculture depends. Then you walk towards the goal of the trip a craftsman's winery in the heart of rural. This is homemade cider, additives are not used here to correct fermentation, it is not gasified, the apple is crushed with squeeze or counterweight dams. Cider + chestnuts in autumn = amagüetu. In spring the first spigots are made. No, no, it's a lie that you have to throw half in and half out, it's done so that it spills, so that it breaks.
The espicha in the wound
In the wine press, the guests of the Niembro brothers take some culines and praise the liquid element, and homemade. The didactic is finished with a espicha practice. Cheese platter, cabbage mayau, boiled eggs, corn tortillas, chorizo with cider, picadillo with potatoes, cod omelette, potato omelette, honey and more cider. Friendship.
Here there is quality of life, the towns and the environment are pampered, comments a married couple from Vilanova i la Geltrup (Barcelona). And the integration formula proposed by the Niembro brothers is assimilated by their students. After these explanations, one is more prepared to do popular tourism, without anyone marking your agendas, maintains Madrid's Jesús Real.
The oldest of the Niembros, Manuel, explains the virtues of a method they have invented for rural Asturias. People are interested, they pay a lot of attention, and it is desirable to satisfy this interest for the good of the peoples. If ethnography interests the village, it will recover its details and part of its life of yesteryear, he maintains.
Asiegu has become a laboratory for rural development.
Approaching Carreña de Cabrales, from where a local road starts that takes us to Asiegu in just 10 minutes.
The itinerary starts at the Casa Niembro Bar. To sign up you must make your reservation in advance, by calling 985 84 50 01 or by contacting House of Village Pamirandi.
Text: © Ramón Molleda for asturias.com