Queijo Minas – It Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy

Minas is a type of cheese that has been traditionally produced in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. It comes in three varieties, named Frescal (fresh cheese, pictured above), Meia-cura (slightly matured cheese) and Curado (matured cheese). A fourth variety, branded Queijo Padrão (standard cheese) has been developed more recently and can be found in nearly all supermarkets and grocery stores in Brazil.

Minas cheese is made from cow’s milk according to traditional recipes. It used to be matured naturally in open air or, much less often, over a cooker to dry with the heat.

Frescal cheese (as the name implies) is served quite fresh, about 4-10 days after preparation, still white and tender (this is the best kind, usually procured through someone who has just come from Minas Gerais). Good frescal must be juicy, soft, slightly granulated (instead of rubbery), with a mild taste. It is not good for cooking, except with beef or pork (the juice helps change the taste of it). It can be used to make sandwiches (when in Brazil, ask for a sanduiche de queijo minas, you won’t regret it)

Curado cheese is ready for consumption when the juice has evaporated and the cheese has solidified and acquired a yellowish tint. Good curado cheese must have a white core, punctured with tiny bubbles of air, slightly more granulated than frescal and with a stronger taste, tending to bitter. It is excellent for cooking, being used for a huge variety of dishes of all types, including Pastel de Queijo and the famouspão de queijo (cheese rolls).

In the short clip below from Brazilian TV Band, the reporter quickly discusses how the process of making Queijo Minas has recently been declared “patrimônio nacional” (national heratige). She also shows how the quiejo is made then she talks with customers in a commercial center of Minas (most likely the capital, Belo Horizonte) and finds out that most are from other Brazilians states and they came there for the cheese. The cheesemaker towards the beginning says “I make cheese to sell but its as if I was making it for myself.” The last guy (seemingly from Minas Gerais) on the report makes a joke saying, “They say in other states that guys from Minas like the cheese more than the women but guys from Minas like cheese and women!”

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