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The European cheese of Portugal's Azores islands: the recipes to get you started

The EU Free Grazing Dairy project is bringing grass-fed Azores cheese to Canadian cuisine. Here's what you need to know, including recipes to get you started.

You've scoffed cheddar, you've eaten a wheel of brie – now the cheese you need to try comes from the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago that sits in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

The Azores — an archipelago made up of nine breathtaking volcanic islands — might be Portugal's best-kept secret, but we're letting the cat out of the bag. In addition to the quaint fishing villages, bubbling hot springs and whale watching potential, the islands are a treasure trove of culinary delights, due in large part to its agricultural prowess and delicious dairy products.

Though the autonomous region of Portugal is surrounded by the sea, the Azores has strong links to the land. Today, cows are a common sight on the islands, where the animals graze 365 days a year — the only spot in Europe that this is possible. It's also feasible that you could be outnumbered by the creatures, like on the stunning island of São Jorge, where thousands of cows munch happily on grass across its rolling hills.

Azores Cheese Pairings

1. São Jorge DOP: buddy up with red wine (bonus points if it's Azorean) – perfect for evening nibbling.

2. Ilha Cheese: a great partner with pineapple (the Azores is also well-known for their sweet pineapples).

3. Prato Cheese: drizzle honey over this cheese, which is the perfect appetizer any time of day.

Dutch Holstein-Friesian cows were first introduced in 1842, and the black and white cattle has been an icon of the islands ever since. By 1870, there were 12,930 cows in São Miguel (the most populated island in the Azores), but this number would triple in just 30 years. Farming began to spread to Terceira, then to Pico, São Jorge and Faial — and while the Azores' ethereal landscape continued to evolve, the pace remained slow and patient, yielding to the natural elements attacking its rugged isles and maintaining traditional methods of production.

Azores cheese: Enjoy It's From Europe

Milk and cheese production has become a daily part of Azorean life — so it's no surprise that the autonomous region of Portugal is fantastic at making our favourite food. In fact, half of the southern European country's cheese is made in the Azores. The Enjoy It's From Europe Program (from the EU Free Grazing Dairy project) aims to bring the best Azorean cheese to Canadians — and with so many types and tastes available, it's time you started snacking.

From the hard são jorge cheese, which has a Protected Designation of Origin status, to the semi-soft Prato and the Ilha ('island') variety, there's a cheese for every occasion. Whether you're enjoying it as an appetizer on its own or adding something sharp and tangy to your mac n' cheese, the full-flavoured cheese, made from grass-fed cow's milk, will take your cooking to the next level.

Azores cheese: Campaign from Europe logo

If you want to try something a little different, we've shared a recipe for São Jorge pudding — a traditional dessert using the iconic cheese — plus an elevated mac 'n' cheese recipe (below).

To start your Azores cheese journey today, head to sayazorescheese.com.

The content of this promotion campaign represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission and the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA) do not accept any responsibility for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

The best recipes using Azores cheese

Azores mac 'n' cheese

Raise the average mac 'n' cheese with this delicious Azores cheese masterpiece.

EU Grazing | Azores mac 'n' cheese

Serves 6

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16 oz macaroni, small size
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • Cayenne Pepper and ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 5 cups of milk 
  • 8 oz of São Jorge cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz of São Miguel cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs (garlic & herbs)

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. Add pasta and salt and cook, often stirring, until tender (just past al dente) and drain pasta.
  3. Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  4. Add flour, salt, cayenne and nutmeg.
  5. Cook, constantly whisking, until the mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, occasionally whisking until thickened, about 7 minutes.
  8. Take the pot off the heat, slowly whisk in both kinds of cheese until completely melted.
  9. Add pasta to the sauce and cook over medium-low heat, constantly stirring, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes.
  10. Transfer to a broiler-safe baking dish or skillet and sprinkle with seasoned bread crumbs.
  11. Broil in the oven until topping is golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  12. Allow casserole to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

A São Jorge Cheese Pudding

This classic Azorean dessert adds cheese to a cake recipe for a very special sweet treat.

Azores cheese pudding with Sao Jorge cheese

Serves 6

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • 250 g sugar
  • 125 g cheese from São Jorge
  • 40 g butter

Method

  1. Beat the eggs and sugar well, add the 4 whites and continue beating.
  2. Grate the cheese and mix well.
  3. Spread the tin with the butter, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 180ºC/356ºF for 30/40 minutes.
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