Three award-winning cheese factories that we can not miss Llobregat above
One of the rising values of Catalan gastronomy and agri-food of proximity and artisan, is the careful preparation of cheeses and the growing existence of very good dairies throughout the country.
Today, then, we propose a getaway to spend at least a day following the Llobregat river above, stopping at three sufficiently valuable dairies, each one with its particularities, a good novel and two and perhaps more troubled, but all of them with quite recognized cheeses and, even, awarded. We have gone to see them, we have spoken with their passionate and guarantor craftsmen, we have tried their small treasures and we make four strokes. We take note!
Cheese Music Cal
We go north along the road axis that follows the Llobregat River crossing the Bages and the Berguedà, regions where we are going to move. As we go swallowing kilometers, once we leave the Manresa conurbation, the landscape becomes embellished with ruralism. We arrive at Navàs and leave the flat highway for the first of the exits. And here, a little further on, just before entering the urban fabric of the town, we turn left on a first street that will end up becoming a placid rural road conveniently asphalt that will take us, in a few minutes, to the village of Mujal. If we went ahead we would go up to the haughty place where the Romanesque church of Sant Cugat del Racó, of remarkable stamp. If you leave with enough tranquility, we will do well to reach them as well.
The nucleus of the Mujal has three (let's say) streets: that of Baix, where the church is, at the level of the street; Dalt's, heading towards the Tramuntana slope, and the Middle one. The Cal Music cheese factory (yes, without a written or pronounced accent, as we have been told that it has always been said, what we will respect), is in the latter, almost at the end of the street. Going up some steps is the entrance of the house, the one that bears the number 22, which was already that of the grandparents of Lourdes, the cheese shop. And the low ones, at the level of the street, taking advantage of an old covered one added, they have fixed their small cheese making cave.
If we have arranged the meeting, something highly recommended, Martí and Lourdes will wait for us , the intrepid couple who started not long ago this already successful adventure. Let's cut to the chase: it's like who says the freshest cheese in the country and already has four of its cheeses awarded in its first contest, the Vic Lactium this 2019. To arrive and kiss the saint, in short. They remove the cheeses from their hands and still do not leave their amazement.
The thing started because of Marti's obsession with cheeses, and when he's stubborn in a good way, you know. The tests and visits to other dairies to start doing the idea started around 2013, but still nothing serious. Yes, no, it seems that they let it be. They pause, surely, even without knowing it, the necessary just before jumping head first. Lourdes leaves her monotonous old job and gets down to work learning how to make cheese in Manresa and la Seu de Urgell. And the crossing begins. And here. At the moment, little more than explaining. Four days ago they were not there. Cheese factory but very short but intense.
In spite of the brevity in the company, however, the philosophy of the cheese of the shepherd believe it at face value. The main milk comes from the goats of the herd of Gerard Capdevila, a shepherd next to the house, of Balsareny, with whom they have formed a good stock. Good milk, good cheeses, it's clear. All together on the path to achieving ecological certification, but it is already known that with palace things it is better to sit down. But at Cal Music, sitting down, nothing.
With this precious goat's milk they make their famous cheese, the Great Music, of pressed pasta, one of the recently awarded in the vigatana event. Sporadically, this is also done with cow's milk, the organic livestock of Joan Barbé de Montferrer, near the Seo de Urgel, or sheep, the flock of a shepherd from Avià, Arnau Prat. Of goat and cow they also make the Tou del Mujal, of soft pasta and washed rind, both awarded also in Vic. And, for the bravest, the Tupí del Mujal, a strong cheese, as befits those of its kind, also awarded in the capital of Osona. And recently, pushed by a healthy discomfort, they have also begun to make the bacon cheese. And if we throw the language, they will always explain us other future projects that, if they go well, can cause a furore. We will have to be on the lookout!
We can all buy them at the door of the cheese factory. But if we want more, we can try to call them before and ask for the possibility of preparing a tasting of their cheeses with wines. And, attention, that the wine, under the label of the Diferenta, is also made by them! Martín, restless ass, is also dedicated to recovering old vines of autochthonous varieties on the side of Castelladral and Viver i Serrateix, for which they can also accompany us if we order the route. Come on, if the courage is contagious, we will leave with the desire to eat the world. Or, at least, their good cheeses; these, sure!
We continue the comeback upstream. We will pass by Puig-reig, Gironella, Berga and Cercs. And just when we are under the decadent and immense chimney of the central Cercs, we turn to the right by a mountain road that will take us, curve after curve, the small town of the Nou de Berguedà. The landscape is raised, untouched and clear most of the year. Right above our heads we have the imposing walls of Sobrepuny, a good place to climb if we have the worm of hiking that runs through our guts. But today we will go to Cuirols, an old manor house that rises half way up Catllaràs. We will scrub the walls of the beautiful Romanesque church of San Martín and we will take the Malanyeu road, which we will soon leave by the path of San Romà de la Clusa, which starts on the right. And up, which makes rise. The road, half asphalted, half land, is good, but curves; since we left the river, at least we will have gained almost more than 500 m of altitude.
Finally we arrive at Cuirols, an old farm that, due to the stubbornness of Josep, one of the current leaders of the artisan cheese in Berguedà, is still standing and very active. It does not come again, however. Behind all this there is a deep-rooted family tradition of Ripoll sheep and old cheeses for family spending. Now, cows and goats fill the meadows and stables, and the cheese, made with the cleaning required, can be eaten beyond the region. He has always been very clear that he wanted to continue here, never falling into the siren song of the economic stability of a job as a salaried employee in the city.
The challenge: the almost total self-sufficiency. And according to his experience, the only way to get ahead with enough dignity. The own flock, of more than 100 alpine goats, the pastures, the fodder, the cheese factory..., everything leaves the house or has done it himself. Closed circuit philosophy, in short. He does not want to know anything about laboratory ferments, he only uses the traditional herbacol-based vegetable rennet, which is hard to find. But, now here, now there, it manages. And from all this, a mother curd emerges, which is what it uses as its own ferment, making sure that it is always the same, elaborating daily. There is no other way. If, for whatever reason, one day he has to stop, he has to start the cycle again, but always with the same passion for thoroughness and respect for his own principles.
Between January and March, until they do not give birth again, Josep does not make cheese, respecting the natural cycle of cattle. But always try to have an assortment to be able to alleviate the demands of the most gluttons. But surely it is not the best time, neither for the cheeses nor, perhaps, to raise to Cuirols, if the cold presses.
If we are lucky, we can choose big among six types of cheeses. There is the Carbonera and the Cuirol, two classics of the house, awarded in many laps, soft paste, about fifteen days of maturation. The Cuirol, when it is well covered with pepper, then it takes the name of Pigot, but it is expensive to see. After curing, we will find the three-month-old Squirrel, awarded 4 times - at the Sant Ermengol Fair of the Seu d'Urgell, at LACTIUM in Vic, the Slow Food of the Lands of Lleida and at the Lladó Fair in Empordà-, and the iris, of a healing of six months and already for more courageous palates. And by the way, if you have available, we can also have a veal meat to lick your fingers. We note that you will soon have your own cutting room. Who does not run, fly!
Before going, if we want to extend the visit, we will do well to make a call and ask for guided tours and workshops to make cheeses for a family audience. The chiquillería will pass it pipe!
Once all decided, to return to the banks of the Llobregat, it will not be necessary to undo the road, but it will be more interesting to go through Malanyeu, having other visions of the landscape of the region. Now, yes, the curves down in the river will not be taken away from us.
Tiraval Cheese Factory
We continue Now we climb a little further up the river, at least to Guardiola. We see, however, that in the official address of the Tiraval cheese factory, which is where we are going next, it says that it is in Bagà. And, yes, they do not tell us a lie. But practically we will not have to pass Guardiola. Right next to the village we will see the deviation towards the core of Terradelles. If they do not explain it to us, maybe it will be difficult to get something clear. The proximity makes it seem like another neighborhood of Guardiola, but in reality it is part, although already on the edge, of one of the tentacles of the municipality of Bagà, of old almost medieval reminiscences. On the other hand, the core of Guardiola does not have much beyond the century, born sheltered from the arrival of the railroad, now more than disappeared.
In the street Galceran de Pinós de Terradelles, then, we will find the cheese factory of Carles Gil, the intrepid neorural, as he defines himself, who left his native Terrassa to settle in the Alt Berguedà, starting with a shoe and an espadrille in 2015. The thing has its merit. The issue of cheeses was already a hobby, but to do, no idea. A course in the Lluçanès, a little passion and... the adventure begins. And that very successful.
From the beginning, he, to make cheeses, greatly appreciates the experimental part. He is aware that he plays with a living element and that his evolution depends on many circumstances. Now we try that, now what... There is only one thing that is clear from the beginning: milk must be first. And with that, they fit together like a glove with Moisés Granados, a new-bred shepherd, trained in the School of Shepherds, in El Pallars, and installed as he says next to home, in Guardiola himself. 120 goats of alpine breed crossed with Pyrenean give enough milk, available only respecting the natural cycle of the same goats, between March and September, days above, days down. And with the project in hand to start with latxa sheep milk, it seems that soon they will arrive.
The result, for now, of reward. Like the one from his soft cheese Moixeró to La Seo de Urgel 2017, an acid curd cheese, the apple of his eye. Of soft paste we will also find the Cendrat, also of an exceptional quality. And curated, the Brocà, the Roca-sança and, attention, the Blue Bastareny, a blue that promises, after having found the trick of the balanced flavor. Will be discussed!
Future projects? Continue on the right path, with passion and without practically resting, as he has traced so far. But we do not just talk about cheeses. It seems that they are thinking about organizing visits to the goat farm and the cheese factory. We will do well, then, by calling to go see them, to be interested in the matter, beyond leaving well loaded with cheeses from the heart of the Alt Berguedà.