Brazil: The Nearly Unknown Cheese Giant
GUEST ARTICLE BY MAÎTRE FROMAGER JAIR JORGE LEANDRO
Jair Jorge Leandro is the leading cheese expert in Brazil. Last year he won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award for his book "Queijos: Do Campo à Mesa" ("Cheese: From Field To Table") in Paris. This year he will be back in Paris to present Brazilian cheese to the food professionals from all around the world.
For the Gourmand Magazine he wrote a short introduction to the cheese from his country.
Brazil is currently the sixth largest producer of cheese in the world with a volume slightly below that of the Netherlands, but due to its large population, per capita consumption is still very low, about 3.4 kg per capita, which is less than 20% of consumption in developed countries. These figures demonstrate the enormous potential for the cheese industry and to national exporters.
To arrive at the almost 700 000 tonnes of annual production today, the cheeses in Brazil went through distinct phases:
Although Brazil was discovered by the Portuguese in 1500 AD, the production of cheese has began slowly and very sparse till the end of the cycle of gold mining in the state of Minas Gerais. The main reason was that the producers did not want to sacrifice the calves for the production of rennet and waited the chance to have stomach of pigs, deer and other species of animals. Depending on the kind of coagulant used, the cheese come out differently each time.
Only after 1870 with the arrival of Holstein cows in a good area for milk production and an invitation made by one Portuguese businessman to two Dutch cheese makers to initiate the production of a Dutch Edam cheese-based, that used to come to Brazil via Portugal, so it was known as the the Kingdom Cheese (because Portugal was a Kingdom). After several failed attempts, they reached a good result and so was born the the Kingdom Cheese of Brazil.
They were packed in tin cans and shipped to markets in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The distance from the center of production for the two main cities of the country caused the finish ripening cheese in cans at room temperature. This process unintentionally ended up turning the Brazilian cheese in a different cheese from the original Dutch and for many, with a superior taste to the original.
The curious thing is that this cheese still has the packaging tin and it’s hard to convince consumers that today they are no longer needed.
By 1920, a small wave of Danish immigrants reached the port of Rio de Janeiro and seeking for a place for the production of cheeses, they discovered Minas Gerais, where they began producing Danish cheeses but adapted to the terroir of the state. They left a huge contributing towards the cheese industry in Brazil and spread an entrepreneurial culture linked to the production of cheese, which remains today.
Finally, Italian immigrants brought their recipes for Parmesan, Provolone and Ricotta.
FROM GOURMAND MAGAZINE