Gamonéu cheese is a type of blue cheese typical of the Picos de Europa area, next to Cabrales and Valdeón. It is made with raw cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk, or a mixture of two or three types, obtained from herds that feed on the natural resources of the area, according to the traditional method.
Gamonéu cheese is a fatty cheese, with a natural toasted rind due to the smoking process it undergoes. The rind must be of sufficient consistency for Penicillium to penetrate inside the cheese during the maturing stage, as well as providing a slight smoky flavour. Ripening takes place in caves and lasts at least two months, after which the mould develops on the outside of the rind, giving rise to the characteristic blue-green outcrops.
The cheese is white or slightly yellow, with blue-green outcrops on the edges. It has a mild, smoky, slightly spicy taste, with a buttery texture and hints of hazelnut.
There are two varieties of this cheese, depending on where it is produced:
Gamonéu del Puerto: it is made in huts in the high mountain passes of Cangas de Onís and Onís. The milk used will be a mixture of at least two of the three types contemplated. The production of these cheeses is seasonal, and takes place between June and September.
Gamonéu del Valle: made in the lower areas of the region, in the valley, production in this case is not seasonal as the herds are semi-extensive.
The first documents found that mention the production of this cheese date from the 17th century, in writings by King Philip IV. There are also references in the Madoz Geographical Dictionary from the 18th century, in which they define the cheese as the basic sustenance of the population of the area, and the existence of mixed farming. Cheese making is a direct consequence of this traditional transhumance. Surplus milk that the port generated in the spring and summer months was transformed into cheese and butter to prevent its loss. The milk was handled in the small shepherd’s huts and later the cheese was cured in the abundant limestone caves, thus ensuring its annual maintenance.
The traditional geographical area is reduced to the municipalities of Onís and Cangas de Onís, in Picos de Europa, a mountainous area with steep slopes that determine the two natural areas, the valley and the pass. In this area the long periods of rainfall mark the character of the territory together with its proximity to the sea, the altitude, the snow and the abundant snowfall. All this has an impact on the characteristics of the product, as milk from species adapted to this climate is used, and the ripening process is affected as it depends on moulds and yeasts that live in the caves where the process is carried out.