Arzúa is one of the most famous and important towns of the Way of St. James. Along with its heritage and history, the town has a gastronomic treasure that no pilgrim or tourist should miss: Arzúa cheese.
Very close to the parish church of St. James of Arzúa, there are two famous monuments dedicated to two of the main activities of the town: the farmers and the cheese makers. The monument to the cheese makers is a grateful tribute to a production that contributes substantially to the local economy: Arzúa cheese.
Arzúa cheese obtained in 1989 the title "Galician quality product" and, in 1995, the "Designation of Origin Arzúa-Ulloa Cheese". From then on, product promotion has not stopped growing, mainly through the now famous "Arzúa Cheese Festival".
The prospective buyer should be aware that, despite the official name, Arzúa cheese is also known as Ulloa cheese, Ulla, "Paleta cheese” or other more generic names as "Galician cheese" or "cheese of the country ".
It is a cheese made from cow's milk from the municipalities of the Ulloa, raw or pasteurized. Its shape is lenticular or cylindrical. Although it is usually rather small, it sometimes reaches 2 kilos per piece. Arzúa cheese production is both artisanal and industrial. At present, there are located around the town some small artisan cheese makers who follow in the footsteps of the traditional cheese production.
The cheese is creamy, rich and smooth. Its crust is thin waxy of yellow and elastic texture, while the paste is white or yellow, very soft and buttery. The flavor is mild, somewhat acidic, varying from a slightly bitter to a slightly sour taste, depending on whether their development has been in winter or summer, being the latest the more mature.
It is advisable to accompany them with light and fruity white or young rosé wines, and to preserve the cheese at a temperature ranging between 8 and 10 degrees centigrade, preferably wrapped to avoid contact with air.
Being aware of the quality of their product, some residents of Arzúa decided to organize a festival of cheese in order to promote it. It was held for the first time in 1975. The celebration was a great success and managed to establish itself as an annual event, so that each year around the first Sunday of March is celebrated the "Arzúa Cheese Festival". In the fair other local gastronomic and craft products are also promoted: pork, honey, ceramics, leather... The success of the festival exceeded all expectations, requiring the council to construct a large pavilion in which to house the display and sale of products.
Moreover, the pilgrim who does not want to carry the cheese for the last days of his pilgrimage or whose accommodation has no refrigerated space to keep it, need not worry because in Santiago de Compostela he will find numerous outlets, including the beautiful food market of Santiago de Compostela.
Photo: Commons Wikipedia, Adrián Estévez.