Growing up, it felt amazing to learn something so personal to our culture; I felt like I was in on a secret. As my hands worked the cheese, I stared at my mother, copying her every move.
ASTURIAS, Spain — In our little corner of Spain, my son and I skyrocketed to global notoriety when our Asturian blue cheese auctioned for the highest price in the world. We proudly carry on the secrets of the trade – passed down from generation to generation – at our cheese factory Quesería Los Puertos.
Handmade by farmers, the cheese takes about two to four months to mature inside natural caves in the surrounding mountains. Growing up, we frequented the mountains of Spain and my mother taught me the intricacies of cheese making.
Growing up, it felt amazing to learn something so personal to our culture; I felt like I was in on a secret. As my hands worked the cheese, I stared at my mother, copying her every move. I wanted the result to be perfect. The process became a bonding experience for us and cultivated my love for food. As an adult, I opened my own cheese factory, eager to share our recipe with the world.
The Asturian blue cheese we auctioned – called Cabrales – must mature in 90 percent humidity with a temperature between six and 12 degrees. This allows magic to take place, giving the cheese its blue-greenish streaks, creaminess, and rich texture. The aroma becomes quite intense, especially when adding goat’s milk to the recipe.
It feels so fun to see people reaction when they taste it. They assume they will hate the cheese due to the smell, but when they take a bite, their eyes widen as if they discovered something truly unique and incredible.
I opened Quesería Los Puertos 20 years ago and have since registered a Guinness World Record for the most expensive cheese ever acquired at auction. The restaurant Llagar de Colloto bought it for 30,000 euros. I felt when utter disbelief when I found out. The prize put us in the spotlight and the day after its announcement, more than 40 people waited in line at the factory to purchase our products. Excitement filled me as I climbed out of my car, barely able to contain my joy. It felt like years of work paid off.
The particular block of cheese purchased at auction boasted a maturation period of nearly 10 months, through which it sat in a cave at an altitude of 1,500 meters. When you entered the cave, an icy chill enveloped your limbs. Inside those walls, where the temperatures dipped to six or seven degrees, it felt freezing. This caused a longer ripening process. Together with my son, we climbed the mountain carrying heavy backpacks loaded with 12 cheeses per trip.
Asturian blue cheese differs from other cheeses in the way it matures. Rather than drying and hardening like most cheeses, it becomes increasingly ripe and soft. Every month, I climbed to the cave to clean the cheese and ensure a creamy, full flavor. Finally, on August 27, 2023, the city hosted a contest called the Festival of Tourist Interest of the Principality of Asturias. The event aims at showcasing the community’s different products to people from all over the world. It also features traditional games, exhibitions, markets, music, and a display of the local cheeses. Seeing so many people eager to taste our product moved me deeply.
I am 60 years old and I have been making cheese all my life. I learned from my mother, who also had her own cheese factory. At the end of the contest, they crowned me the winner and applauded my work. I started to cry as the deep emotions surfaced. Thinking back to my ancestors and how they started this tradition gave me goosebumps. Today, my son works with me and will someday inherit the recipe. It fills me with so much pride to know that the legacy will live on.
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