Its gastronomic cradle is situated in the heart of the Picos de Europa National Park. The cheese matures in natural caves and preserves the aroma of the previous, transhumant pastoral culture, which in spring and summer seeks high mountain pastures for their native cows, caskets and carts, as well as sheep and goats. Of the three milks, in perfect harmony, and with the spirit in the background of the same caves, the high plains, and the flocks where the cattle graze, the Gamonéu, as it is popularly known, takes on body and spirit.
It takes its name from the homonymous places, one in the council of Onís and another in that of Cangas de Onís. The first of the councils is that the one that has reached the greatest renown with villages of great tradition in these dairy operations, such as Bobias, Silviella, Avín, Talaveru, El Castru, Demués ...
Its artisanal elaboration involves mixing the milk of the herd of the two milkings, morning and afternoon, obtaining the next day an acid curd that will be later treated as far as possible. After several days of pressing the cheese so that it loses part of its whey, the piece is sprinkled with coarse salt and placed in wooden rooms where 10-15 will remain for days, generating and receiving the smoke generated inside the cabin. Then the cheese goes on to complete its process to the natural caves of the mountains, where it will remain for two months until the lightly smoked bark with the inside is covered in an intense cave. Musty veil of reddish, gray and greenish tones, which already opens our appetite at the first glance. The paste becomes dry and brittle, with slightly spicy flavor and developed.
Its authentic flavor, without replication in the known world, is the result of a careful tradition that has been passed from parents to children as one of the most appreciated knowledge of the family. There is no product involved in the production method strictly natural, because the "cuayu" used is also of this origin.
The Gamonéu usually tasted in tacos not too fat but elongated. Here I catch you here I kill you: the cheese is then accompanied by some bread. But as is usual in contemporary Asturian cuisine, its essence is sought in more and more dishes, and it is consumed in creams and sauces of different recipes and as seasoning sprinkled for salads. This versatility, typical of other dairy products in the region, makes it a true example of Asturian taste, always intense and unique.
The best way to get to know Gamonéu first hand is to go to the area mentioned above, also registered in Eastern Asturias: the most important cheese stain in Europe according to many experts. In this region, also, a long-term disclosure of the product itself has been ongoing. Although popularly the road leading to the cheese factories is already known, we want to promote tourism in a scheduled visit that would include various itineraries, including the old access roads to the high altitude pastures. The initiative also includes visits to cabins in the Picos de Europa, where the most artisan cheeses are made, as well as industrial cheese factories.
Secondly, it is intended that the processing centers will become tasting points and direct sale of cheeses. The star performance will be the launching of routes that allow the visit to cheese factories, cabins or shepherds' farms, so that a new tourist product is consolidated.
Even if it is a project you can get ahead, do not wait for the competent authorities to sign it, take a road map, go to Cangas or Benia and ask directly for the cheese factories and the pastures. Travel your landscape and improvise a place to eat in the countryside, a bit of Gamonéu, cider or wine. Surely you do not need more than one interlocutor, or none, to say out loud "how good this cheese is" and then lie down in the shade of a beech. Count to three and breathe fresh air.
Today, more than 40 varieties of cheese are made, some of the best known and most popular ones we present to you, if you want to discover more about the cheeses of Asturias.
The Gamonéu has its own contest that year after year is held in mid-October in Benia de Onís. Between a great expectation a few tons are sold. If you have occasion, come and see first hand the passions that this emblematic cheese raises.Text: © Ramón Molleda for desdeasturias.com