The Dão area undoubtedly offers a plethora of delights for your palate!
It wasn’t hard to decide on the dish that the Dão/ Serra de Estrela area is most famous for – both locally and nationally. These small round, pale straw-yellow, strong-smelling cheeses are a source of local pride.
In order to comply with DOP regulations, they have to be made from 100% sheep’s milk. The milk has to come from Ovelha Bordaleira or Churra Mondegueira sheep (two specific local breeds) then add local thistle (a wildflower that grows in the forests that acts as a coagulant) and salt. Nowadays, any salt can be used – but previously the shepherds harvested fleur de sal.
The cheeses have a soft crust and are cured between 6-18 months. The longer the curing process – the harder the cheese. After 18 months the cheeses start to take on a crumbly parmesan-type consistency.
Locals say the best cheeses are made in December and January when the temperatures are colder, frosts are on the ground and the sheep are fatter.
A Queijo da Serra contains 45-60% fat. Whether you prefer a younger, softer cheese or a more mature version is up to you. Dao residents tend to like the more mature, harder cheeses.
Try one with a good, thick slice of regional sourdough or rye bread and a hearty glass of young, red wine and you, too, might find yourself arguing over the merits of this yummy delicacy!