In the small village of Ambasmestas in the unique microclimactic Bierzo region of Spain, Joaquin Villaneuva Casado produces Veigadarte goat’s milk cheeses as well as yogurts and cheesecakes in his small creamery. Milk for production is sourced from nearby organic farmers, who raise local breed Muriciano-Granadina goats. Production of cheese in the creamery can be divided into two main categories: organic, raw milk cheeses that are produced for the local market, and conventional, pasteurized cheeses that are produced for the U.S. export market (the supply of organic goat’s milk in the region is limited, and the exported cheese must be pasteurized to comply with FDA requirements).
To produce these goat’s milk cheeses, Casado adds lactic acid bacterial cultures along with a bit of yogurt to milk at 82 degrees, and after waiting about one hour for the milk to reach a pH of 4.5, adds rennet. During this time salt is also added to the milk, which is a rather unique practice (the addition of salt before cutting the curd means that a large portion of it will lost along with the whey, but Casado believes that this step helps to develop just the right amount of saltiness). The curd is left to form overnight, and is put in draining bags the following day. Bags are left for a further 24 hours, then pressed to expel whey. When ready, the cheese is placed in a homogenizer that was specially designed by Casado to create a smooth, uniform consistency, to add desired flavors such as garlic or quince, and to form the cheese into log or rectangular shapes.
At this point, some of the fresh cheeses are rolled in herbs such as black pepper, red pepper, or green chilies and then sent to the cooler, ready to be sold. Others are placed in a brine that’s been inoculated with Penicillium candidum spores, then rolled in oak ash and placed in a drying room, where a white bloomy rind begins to develop. After 8-12 days the fuzzy logs are moved into a cooler with a lower temperature, where the rind continues to develop more slowly for up to three weeks more.
The high butterfat content of the milk from Muriciano-Granadina goats gives Veigadarte cheeses a soft, fluffy, cheesecakey texture. Flavor is creamy and fresh with notes of citrus and pepper. The ash-covered, mold-ripened version is slightly more pungent and mushroomy, displaying a smoother, beige-colored paste close to the outside and a chalkier, white texture in its center.
Pair Veigadarte cheeses with Champagne or with a Reisling.