Queijo is the Portuguese word for cheese. The history of cheese making goes back to 6000BC with major developments coming from the Arab, Roman and Greek worlds. The exceptional pastures across different regions of Portugal provide an ideal cheese making environment. Cheese making is an art that seamlessly connects land, animals, craft and people to produce some of the most treasured culinary delicacies in the country. Portuguese cheese is made either from sheep, goat or cow’s milk with some types of cheese using a mixture of these. It is normally served at the end of a meal or as a petisco and accompanied with a variety of breads, dried fruit and the magnificent marmelada (solid quince jam).
The most important cheese-making traditions in Portugal are protected by the Denominações de Origem Protegida (DOP) which identifies regions and processes. There are eleven recognised traditional cheeses in Portugal: queijo de Azeitão, queijo da Beira Baixa, queijo de Cabra Transmontano, queijo Serra da Estrela, queijo de Évora, queijo de Nisa, queijo do Pico, queijo Rabaçal, queijo Serpa, queijo de S. Jorge e queijo Terrincho. Needless to say that the title for the best cheese in Portugal is the cause of ongoing debates. All you can do is join in and keep trying all the cheeses before you make up your own mind. An ancient popular saying shows us the importance of cheese: “it is the cheese that makes the cheese-maker”.