Best goats' cheese in the world | Posted: 14 August 2014
Tasty cheese on ancient Fuerteventura
Tasty cheese on ancient Fuerteventura
Tasty cheese on ancient Fuerteventura

Did you know that Fuerteventura translates from the Spanish as ‘goat island’? Ok, so it doesn’t really, but if you spend any time here you could easily be mistaken for thinking it did.

The island's most numerous inhabitants are Cabra Majorera goats, common to all the Canary Islands, yet most prevalent here on Fuerteventura. They are well suited to the starkly beautiful landscapes that simply would not support cattle, and the chances are that you will see many of the 28 different varieties as you explore the island, particularly in the interior on the vast plains and in the surprisingly green valleys scattered across the island.

When the Conquistadores first arrived in the early fifteenth century, the indigenous Mahos people were already tending upwards of 60,000 goats across the length and breadth of the island. Today, it is estimated that there are somewhere in the region of 140,000, a number which exceeds the human population by a considerable margin.

Maxorata, as Fuerteventura was known in the Middle Ages, gave its name to the queso Majorero cheese, and also to the goats themselves. Cabra Majorera goats are very adaptable animals – they have to be – and produce an almost aromatic, high-fat milk which is perfect for making what is reputed to be the best goats' cheese in the world! (Majorero cheese was the first goats' cheese in Spain to receive Protected Designation of Origin in 1996, due to the ingredients used and its traditional production methods.)

In the plains of the Jandia Peninsula, herds of goats still roam free, breeding and surviving on their own. In a tradition that dates back to those pre-conquest days, the goats are annually rounded up into a dry-stone wall corral known as a gambuesa at a hot and dusty affair known as the apañada.

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Here, the herd is checked for its general health, new kids are marked, castrations are carried out and goats are bought and sold. As Fuerteventura is an island, the goats do not contract common illnesses seen in other populations, and their exceptional genetic qualities add to the high quality of the milk.

Similar to Manchego, Majorero is a firm cheese with a milky, nutty flavour that goes surprisingly well with pears (a rival for Stinking Bishop, perhaps?) as well as being a delicious accompaniment to traditional Canarian potato dishes. The cheeses range from fresco (soft, white and quite bland), semicurado (matured for more than 35 days, harder and stronger flavoured) and curado (matured for more than 105 days and sometimes pungent enough to take your breath away). The white rind on the soft cheeses takes on an ivory hue as it matures, while some cheeses are impregnated with gofio (toasted cereal flour) or paprika, which help to preserve the cheese and also to give it its characteristic flavours.

No visit to Fuerteventura would be complete without calling in at one of the island’s goat farms to taste (and buy) the cheese. Near the village of Betancuria, you will find the Cumbres de Betancuria, a dairy that not only sells its own fine cheeses, but which also has a small museum dedicated to old farming methods, and a shop selling other local produce.

Time your arrival for lunch and settle down to some queso Majorero, papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes) with mojo sauce (red with chillies or green with coriander) and almogrote, a soft paste made from goats’ cheese, peppers, olive oil and garlic, for a real taste of authentic Fuerteventura.



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