The western coast of Cadiz is the sherry heartland, but the mountains of Cadiz are home to the sheep and goats that kindly provide the milk which the local artisan cheesemakers turn into the province’s exceptional, award-winning cheese.
It’s easy to find, served as tapas in every bar and restaurant, but sometimes the make and provenance is hard to identify. Now there is a cheese bible: Los Quesos Artesanos de la Sierra de Cadiz, written by Irene Golden and Antonio Orozco and published by the Diputación de Cádiz, and part of a series of publications (Despensa de Recuerdos) dedicated to the region’s gastronomy.
As much a celebration of the glorious sierras, age-old tradition and independent producers as a guide to cheese, the book is packed with interviews, and pictures of merino sheep and payoya goats, and ends with a helpful directory of cheesemakers, detailing what cheeses they produce and where to find them. Co-author Orozco is a chef, and has contributed a series of pretty inspiring recipes which, in the main, star cheese.
There are surprises – almond-coated goat’s cheese lollies and dark chocolate and mature goat’s cheese bonbons – but also reminders of top flavour pairings, such as goats cheese with quince jam of course, and empanadillas of goats cheese and pear, trout pate with fresh sheep’s cheese, and a summer classic, goat’s cheese, watermelon and mint salad.
Track down a copy of the book (Spanish only) and whatever you do stop by one of the cheese factories – most are tiny – and buy direct. Happily they are all located in some of the province’s most beautiful spots. And all sell queso con alma, cheese made with soul, as the authors describe it.
El Bosqueño, El Bosque: wide range of cheeses that have accumulated more than 50 national and international prizes in total. They are sold at the Museo y Centro de Interpretación del Queso, so shopping couldn’t be easier. See www.quesoselbosque.com for opening times.
La Abuela Agustina, Grazalema: variety of merino sheep’s and payoya goats cheese sold from their popular shop in the heart of Grazalema. For details see the website.
La Pastora de Grazalema, also Grazalema (c/Fuente Abajo, 3-4).
Granja Madrigueras, near Algodonales: 100% goats cheese (fresh, semi-cured, cured), and amazing yoghurt. CA 9100 km 3, access from the Arcos-Antequera road km 38; open Mon-Fri 10-1pm & 5-7.30pm.
Quesos Oliva, Villaluenga del Rosario (c/Balmes, 1): The producer, Rosario, is a pioneer in ecological cheese production in Cadiz. Limited supply and very, very popular.
El Saltillo, Villaluenga del Rosario (c/Doctor Vázquez Gutiérrez, 16): ecological goat’s milk cheese. Open Mon-Fri afternoons only, Sat & Sun, mornings only.
Quesos Villaluenga, Villaluenga (Plaza de Toros, 10): open Mon-Fri, 10-2pm
La Cabra Verde, Arcos-El Bosque road: awarded a silver medal in the World Cheese Awards in 2013, and producing a wide variety of cheeses, cream cheese, yoghurts For details see the website.
Hermanos Mangana, Benaocaz (c/Lepanto, 1) : goat, sheep and a blend of both. Open daily.
Quesos de Ubrique, website.
Payoyo, Villaluenga del Rosario: just go to any shop for this. Payoyo cheese is not only sold all over the province but in fine delis around the world. Named for the local goats, it was actually a sheep’s milk cheese that scooped the gold medal in the World Cheese Contest 2014, just one of over 100 prizes so far. For details see the website.
Pajarete, Villamartin (polígono industrial El Chaparral, A384): widely available, but good range at the dedicated shop as well as sheep’s milk yoghurt. For details and opening times see the website.
Also look out for Apiolvera, from Olvera, sold in Cadiz, Sevilla and Malaga, and watch this space for information on organised visits to what is perhaps the region’s most spectacularly located cheese producer, responsible for Puerto Carrillo, close to the famed (if inauspiciously named) Salto de Cabrero in Benaocaz.