The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity

Santo AntãoImage via WikipediaThe Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity: "Matured Planalto de Bolona Goat Cheese
Capo Verde

Cheese production is one of many activities reflecting the integration of two souls, the African and European, woven together over the centuries in the population of Cape Verde.
The difficult, arid environment—the infrequent rain falls on particularly sandy ground—could only be settled by determined, persevering people, the product of a multitude of different ethnic groups and histories, and by goats, the only animals able to survive on so little and still produce a valuable product.
In fact, goat cheese is produced on various islands of the archipelago (albeit with differing shapes), as well as all over the island of Santo Antão. But in the mountainous, dry and almost uninhabited area of the Planalto de Bolona plateau (at an altitude of between 800 and 1500 meters) there is a last nucleus of shepherds. They perform a crucial role in helping to protect the land, which is subject to significant erosion from the torrential, even if rare, rainfall.
The methods used to raise animals and make cheese in Bolona are examples of an impressive capacity to adapt to the difficult environmental conditions. The animals, left to graze freely for the whole day, spontaneously gather in the late morning to drink at the milking area, where the kids are kept in dry stone walled huts. After milking, the goats stay with the kids for two or three hours and then return to graze until the next day. The animals are milked once a day, since there is no electricity and it is only possible to work in daylight. Cheesemaking starts immediately after milking in tiny traditional stone huts with roofs of straw and matting. Each operation is carried out with extreme care, keeping water consumption to a minimum. Water is valuable here and, except for short periods, has to be brought in by water tanker or donkey. Processing is carried out naturally without using additional sources of heat. Kid's rennet produced by the shepherds is added to the raw milk. After about an hour and a half or two hours the curd is broken down to the size of corn grains, left to settle and the whey is removed. The paste is then shaped and pressed by hand into metal molds and left to drain.
The final product is a pure rennet coagulated goat cheese. It is semi-hard and cylindrical in shape (diameter 10-15 cm) with flat faces, low and slightly convex sides (3-4 cm). The paste is compact, uniform, without eyes and ivory-white in color. It has a weak lactic aroma with herbaceous notes. On the palate it is sweet with slightly tangy flavor and a tender elastic consistency.

The Presidium
The Presidium plans to support the project, funded by the Piedmont Regional Authority and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Program for the improvement of agri-livestock production on the island of Sant'Antão – Cape Verde".
A lack of suitable premises for aging has meant the cheese has traditionally had to be eaten within a short period (3-5 days) after production. The Presidium is promoting an aged product, a goat cheese with significantly more complex and interesting organoleptic characteristics.
Working with the farmers and project partners (particularly the Department of Animal Pathology at the University of Turin and ONAF, the Italian National Organization of Cheese Tasters which has already drawn up production rules), the Slow Food Foundation will provide the Presidium with the training and assistance needed for the various stages of production (from starter culture to aging) and, in particular, will work to make the cheese widely known.
Improved commercialization of the cheese will enable the population of the Bolona highlands to continue living there, thereby preserving their identity in their homeland without having to seek employment opportunities in the cities or tourist villages.

Area of Production
Cape Verde
Planalto de Bolona, Island of Santo Antão

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