Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Idiazabal

QUESERIAS ARAIA
Jesus Manuel Moreno
Araia, Espana


This was the only cheese factory we visited in Spain. They primarily make Idiazabal cheese, smoked and plain. This factory was in the Northwest of Spain about an hour from San Sebastian, and I was introduced to them through a friend of a friend who works in cheese in Spain. Jesus and an assistant gave us a very thorough tour of their facility in a mix of Spanish, French and English. They are not a farmstead producer, but receive their milk from about 300 different small producers. Samples from all of the producers are regularly sent out to labs and they measure the TA (titratable acidity) and protein levels in-house.





The cheese is made in 8,000 L capacity tanks (although not usually full) with raw sheeps milk. The culture is added and left for two hours at 32 C. They use a natural rennet and cut the curd into about 1 inch cubes for 20 minutes. The cheese curd is drained out of the tank down a pipe to a machine that fills the molds. The whey that drains off is sold as animal feed. The full cheese molds are pressed for 2 hours. The cheese is then dipped in brine and soaked for 6 to 7 hours in a constant stream. The cheeses are dipped in a wax-like sealant before aging. The cheese is aged at 9 C for 1-2 months. At about 4 months old they are smoked with natural woodsmoke.




Queserias Araia produces about 2-3 million kgs of cheese per year with about 20 employees. They are hoping to upgrade all of their equipment in the near future to become the largest cheesemaker in Spain. While the scale they are working at is much larger than the farmstead producers that we visited, by comparison to cheese factories in the U.S. they are still quite small.

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