Named after the town, Castelo Branco is produced in the Central region of Portugal, in the municipalities of Castelo Branco, Fundão and Idanha-a-Nova, an area known for its microclimate and verdant pastures.
Awarded Portugese DOP (name protected) status, there are three types of Castelo Branco, with sheep’s milk being the most usual version. In addition, there is also a mixed sheep and goat’s milk version that is matured for approximately 45 days and a a more mature, stronger version, made using animal rennet, aged for a minimum of 120 days.
Milk is sourced from the Merino da Beira Baixa breed of sheep.
For production, milk is coagulated using thistle rennet. This is a natural vegetable rennet derived from the stamens of the cardoon thistle, which naturally grows wild in the countryside where the cheese is made. After coagulation, the curd is cut and the whey slowly drained off before being placed into cheese molds for pressing.
After unmolding, cheeses are matured for a period of at least 45 days. When the aging is prolonged to 90 days or more, cheeses become firmer in texture and slightly brittle.
The interior pale, texture of Castelo Branco is semi soft, encased within a firmer, darker yellow rind. Flavors are tangy with a slightly spicy and sour finish.