The most original cheese of Canary Islands is produced in Northern Gran Canaria and it is also one of the most singular ones around the world, only comparable to other cheeses from Extremadura, Spain. It is elaborated in the municipalities of Santa María de Guía, Gáldar and Moya. The originality of this cheese in the way they curdle the milk: most of the cheese makers use animal rennet, however the cheese “queso de flor” is elaborated with vegetal rennet (thistle flower). That’s the reason why since 2009 this cheese has been labelled with a Protected Denomination of Origin.
The production of flower cheese is very limited. The producers are whole families, which are usually sheep shepherds (a trade which is close to disappear). They milk the sheep, clean the corrals, grow forage, herd sheep and use to do the seasonal migration of livestock: they took their livestock the whole year to several places in the island looking for pasture.
Thistle blooms in April and May, but it is not the time yet: we need to wait until summer. At the end of July and in the beginning of August the head of the flower will be cut, it is not tender anymore but it is not dry either. The stamens of the flower will be put in water as if they were tea. The infusion will be strained and it will be poured over milk (a mix between sheep milk and cow milk). After approximately two hours this milk will be curdled and it will be ready to make cheese. It takes 22 days until this cheese is cured. The mixture is well pressed and creamy, as well as soft. The rind is almost yellow and it has some cuts from the cheese mold.
Flower cheese has a strong characteristic taste and the elaboration is slower and more delicate as in any other kind of cheese. That’s the reason why half-flower cheese is more common, because it has the same creamy paste but it is a bit more compact, and it also tastes a bit milder. Milk curdles in a shorter time: just one hour and a quarter in comparison with the two hours of the flower cheese.
Since 2009 these cheeses have been protected and controlled with the label of Protected Denomination of Origin “Queso de Flor de Guía y Queso de Guía”. This label includes flower cheese, half-flower cheese and sheep cheese made with animal rennet.
–Flower Cheese of Guía (height: 4 to 6 cm, diameter: 22 to 30 cm and weight: 2 to 5 kilos): very thin, elastic, and soft external rind with a dull ivory colour, pie shape, cream colour soft paste, creamy texture, bitter-acid taste, very aromatic. Cured cheeses have a brown yellow colour and they are quite hard. When cutting them, they have a pleasant smell, a bitter taste and a spicy sensation
–Half-flower Cheese of Guía (height: 4 to 8 cm, diameter: 22 to 30 cm and weight: 2 to 5 kilos): thin, ivory colour rind in those cheeses with a short ripening. Cured cheeses have a thicker and brown rind, ivory-white (almost yellow) paste –depending on the ripening- and very compact while cutting it, the texture is creamy, but almost hard depending on the ripening, acid taste and spicy sensation.
–Cheese of Guía (height: 4 to 8 cm, diameter: 20 to 30 cm and weight: 2 to 5 kilos): very thin and ivory rind (half cured cheeses) and thick and brown rinds (cured cheeses), ivory-yellow paste, compact while cutting it and closed. Salt and acid tastes and sometimes a bit bitter and spicy sensation.