Serra da Estrela (CARDOP) – Unpasteurised Sheep’s Milk, Suitable For Vegetarians (Thistle Rennet)


Good Morning to you All on Easter Sunday,

The sun is shining here in the New Forest and I’m pleased to say that its now the time to release my thoughts on the Serra De Estrela cheese which arrived this week. I have been in talks with Paulo Barracosa for a couple of months now and I have been struck be just how interesting this cheese is in terms of its production and story, and if there is any cheese that deserves to be highlighted over Easter its this one. You will see the word CARDOP used a lot in this article and it means in full ‘Cardoon Thistle Protected Designation Of Origin’ but this has been abbreviated to CAR(Cardoon)DOP(Protected Designation Of Origin) or CARDOP.

The story of this cheese is as follows and I would suggest for everyone to read the next statement fully as this truly is an innovative cheese product, I would also say that I have run this through a translator so if its not perfect then I hope you understand!

“The CARDOP Project, the result of an extensive partnership between reference institutions located in the region, such as the Escola Superior Agrária/IPV, Catholic University-Regional Centre of Borders Health Sciences Department, ANCOSE – National Association of sheep producers Serra da Estrela Serra da Estrela cheese Brotherhood and mentally disabled children and the country, as the Center for Neuroscience and Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Coimbra and the Biocant, has been developing a set of related actions, scientific-technical, in order to contribute to the promotion and enhancement of an icon of the rural world, the cheese “Serra da Estrela”, favoring one of its raw materials, the Thistle flower that contains a vegetable coagulant indispensable for the production of PDO Cheese “Serra da Estrela”. The promoters of the CARDOP believe that the scientific work, systematic, creative and innovative, fruit of the genetics and biochemistry of biodiversity Cardoon, typicality of pastures and landscapes, of sheep breeds excellence “Serra da Estrela” and the labor of its producers, technicians and employees may soon translate into more profits for this sector which shows enormous potential for appreciation.

After we decided to bet on the plantation of two fields of genetic resources of the Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus l.) in Escola Superior Agrária and Casa da ĂŤnsua, where we believe be represented much of the biodiversity of this species, we are the morphological, biochemical and genetically characterize, at the same time we evaluate the potential of this diversity by conducting sensory evidence of Serra da Estrela cheese with the collaboration of a panel of qualified testers reference, selected by several institutions in the sector, which will feature the sensory diversity of several specimens in the chromatic level proof, of textures, aromas and flavours. It is our intention to provide “Tools” and give the producers of scientific knowledge and duly selected to plant material that they can create and “draw” your standard cheese with a typicality and quality own that may enhance the differentiation extraordinarily competitive in a global market. To give response to the concerns of the Serra da Estrela cheese producers, we have at this stage with the excellent collaboration of five producers, namely, ANCOSE (Oliveira do Hospital), Casa da ĂŤnsua (Penalva do Castelo), cheese dairy of Germil (Penalva do Castelo), cheese dairy Lameiras (Oliveira do Hospital), cheese dairy AntĂłnio Alberto Marques (ovens Algodres) which laboraram lots of cheeses with Thistle ecotypes duly selected as part of the project that will test the next day on May 24 by 14, 30 h on cam of the Commission’s Regional Wine Tasters of the DĂŁo, which in a manner extraordinarily cooperative ceded its facilities for this achievement of enormous importance for the future of the project and the industry. We believe that this action will help to enhance the synergies between these two “bastions” of the countryside, of gastronomy and tourism of our region, the DĂŁo wine BeirĂŁ and the Serra da Estrela Cheese. In the Organization of this event, the Panel also CARDOP with the collaboration of Controlvet Fullsense, an entity with vast experience in setting up panels of tasters, who organised the national contest of cheeses, which will greatly contribute to the success of this initiative and for the obtaining of results that will allow us to continue to set the strategic direction and the options to be taken in the project and by producers so that they can meet the expectations of consumers and can aim the conquest of new markets. The dissemination of these results do not intend to condition the individual assessment of the connoisseurs of this marvel of gastronomy, but it will be a learning process for producers and connoisseurs, in order to better know the potential of the various elements that allow for the creation of this ex libris. The CARDOP project incorporates right now doctoral students, graduate students and graduate of several educational institutions involved, which help to create a network in the industry with an installed capacity of creation and transfer of knowledge to the entire row of the Serra da Estrela Cheese in proximity. In a time of innovation, in which we believe, we believe it is crucial to perpetuate knowledge, recreate and recover traditions “creeds” who are emptying of the territories, these our territories, in essence natural and biotechnological potential. One of the objectives of the disclosure of this project relates to a strategy of uniting efforts in favour of a reference product and of a region, a logic to create value with the territory from which this icon is a reference.” (

Adding to the background of this cheese Is that is produced by Casa da Insua (José Matias, cheese producer) one the CARDOP projects partners. The Casa da Insua ( is a 5-star luxury hotel in the region of Viseu (Where the CARDOP project is based) that promotes the rural landscape & countryside, and all of its material & human potential, in cheese, wine, fruits and jams. It features English & French gardens also to help with producing these different products.

Just a small part of this impressive hotel.

Put simply this isn’t anything short of amazing due to the scientifically talented students of all backgrounds and the producers of the cheese that share the same values. The collaborative efforts & resources should shape the way we not only think of cheese but the way we produce food for future generations and that is one of their aims to make it sustainable.

The only part that’s left to talk about is the taste of this cheese and on the 31st March Paulo & Myself started to organise the delivery of this cheese. When I had a reply from Paulo in the e-mail is a perfect paragraph that explains the expectations of the texture & flavours:

Serra da Estrela Cheese: The texture of the paste varies depending on its age, from a very soft semi-liquid when young, to a soft but sliceable solid when older, despite this we can control some part of this maturation and texture with our flowers. It is a cured cheese created by artisanal producers with a white or slightly yellow color and a uniform creamy consistency with at most a few small holes in it. Its particular qualities result from slow draining of curdled raw sheep’s milk which has been coagulated by using local Cynara cadunculus thistle ecotypes that we have selected.”

It arrived this week and I wanted to get the full flavour so I initially tried it without any accompaniments, and my first impressions were of the initial bitterness of sheep’s milk but I found that it mellowed and developed into what was a nutty, creamy and floral taste. The aroma of this cheese hints at something more along the lines of an alcoholic washed rind cheese but no alcohol is involved with this cheese. For my second taste I used an apricot & peach chutney on a biscuit which worked really well with the cheese as the sweetness cut through the bitterness of the sheep’s milk. The 3rd test was with some honey and I found this to work very well, so I got a peach and cut it into little cubes. I also cut the cheese into pieces and served the Cheese with peaches & honey and this was my overall favourite. I can imagine myself with a glass of wine in the gardens of Casa Da Insua and a plate of this cheese which is the picture of bliss. If this is what the future of sustainable foods look like then I welcome it with open arms.

I realise that this was a long article but I feel that this is one of the highlights of my Blog so far and I’m immensely proud to have been given the opportunity to try this cheese. I hope that within the near future I will be able to visit Viseu and in particularly stay in this hotel to meet all the wonderful people that have created this cheese. This cheese is unfortunately difficult to get hold of but if your after any please message me at and I will try my upmost to help you out through my contacts but I can’t promise anything.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading and would love any comments below.

I wish you all a Happy Easter Weekend,




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This is the official page for the Cheesy1 Blog. I'm a Cheese Writer/Advisor, Judge & former Guild of Cheese Graders member. I'm also available as a Professional Cheese Speaker. I'm passionate about cheeses and local produce but in my own unique cheesy way. If you have any questions please ask me via my blog or e-mail me at and I shall try to be as helpful as possible. Thank you for showing an interest in my Blog. Cheesy1

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