Afuega’l Pitu cheese is a solid cheese made from pasteurised cow’s, sheep’s, goat’s or other ruminant mammal’s milk. Known as a method of preserving milk, it is currently one of the world’s leading agricultural products. It is very important in dairy regions, such as the Mediterranean basin.
Afuega’l Pitu cheese is protected by the designation of origin. It is a fat cheese, fresh or cured, made with pasteurised whole milk from Friesian cows, Asturiana de los Valles or their crossbreeds. It is a soft cheese obtained by lactic coagulation, white or reddish-orange in colour if paprika is added, at a concentration of 1%. For cheeses aged more than 60 days, pasteurisation is not necessary.
This cheese is not pressed, so the draining of the whey is a slow stage which is carried out in truncated cone or courgette moulds. Therefore, depending on the shape of the mould, the presence of paprika and whether the curd is kneaded or not, there are four traditional mentions.
Atroncau blancu: truncated cone shape, not kneaded and white in colour, as it does not contain paprika. Atroncau roxu: truncated cone shape, kneaded and red-orange in colour, as it contains paprika. Trapu blancu: courgette shaped, kneaded and white in colour, without paprika. Trapu roxu: courgette shape, kneaded and red-orange in colour, with paprika.
The taste of this cheese is slightly acidic, with a mild aroma, almost or not at all salty, creamy and dry. The red cheese has spicy notes and is stronger. It is a pasty and astringent cheese when it passes through the throat, hence its name, as pitu is an Asturian term for the pharynx.
Afuega’l Pitu cheese appears in 18th century documentation as a currency for payment of taxes. At the end of the 19th century, Felix Aramburo y Zuloagalo described it as “primitive cheese from the puñu or afuega’l Pitu that is common in almost all the councils of Asturias“. The name is bable, the traditional language of Asturias, which translated into Spanish most probably means “choking the throat”, since the word pitu, as we have mentioned before, refers to the larynx. There are numerous texts naming this cheese, notably the Spanish Inventory of Traditional Products, published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1996, as part of the project funded by the European Union Commission, which presents it as one of the oldest Asturian cheeses.
The production area is a region with an oceanic climate, therefore it has abundant rainfall, moderate solar radiation and high cloud cover. This climate favours the rapid development and high quality of the meadows and pastures in the area, which means that milk production is abundant with a composition of fatty acids that give the cheese its characteristic flavour and aroma.
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