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All cheese considered: Urgelia. (Case & counter: perishable & prepared foods update).

Urgelia, a natural washed-rind cow's milk cheese, is the latest cheese from Spain to be awarded the coveted DOP, or Denominacion de Origen Protegida (Protected Designation of Origin). The DOP is the rigid classification that dictates every facet of the cheesemaking process, including the type of cows the milk is from and how they are pastured. Officially, the denomination is known as Queso de l'Alt Urgelly la Cerdanya and is from the provinces of Lerida and Gerona set in the central-eastern Catalan Pyrenees. The cheese itself -- aromatic and full-flavored -- is named for the town of La Seu de Urgell, which lies beneath the spectacular Sierra de Cadi mountain range, from which the cooperative Cadi takes its name. Founded in 1915 originally for the production and marketing of beef, Cadi Cooperative collects milk from more than 260 dairy farmers to make cheese and butter. As the first such milk cooperative in the country, Cadi gained recognition for Urgelia within Spain early on due to its proximity to the markets of Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia. The high quality and excellent flavor of these cheeses has as much to do with the lush and abundant pastures in high mountain valleys and pristine waters as it does to the skill of the master cheesemakers. The milk is collected from the ,noble Frisian cows every day without exception and is tested to ensure the absence of antibiotics or hormones. After initial pasteurization, fermentation, and a proper brine bath, the cheeses are ripened in special caves for a minimum of 45 days before being released to the market. Urgelia is formed into 5.5-pound cylindrical shapes with slightly rounded edges, approximately 8" in diameter. The creamy, semi-soft paste is straw-colored with irregular holes scattered throughout. Its penetrating aroma and robust flavor make Urgelia a fine choice for the cheeseboard, and the even melting characteristics make it a good choice for cooking. It marries best with full-bodied wines, such as red Rioja or New World Chardonnay.

RELATED ARTICLE: Croque-monsieur catalan.

This full-flavored version of the classic brasserie snack can be a showcase for three great Spanish products butter, ham, and cheese. Match with any good, full-bodied everyday drinking wine or beer.

Several slices crusty bread
Jamon Serrano
Queso Urgelia

Assemble a slice of ham and a slice of cheese between two slices of buttered bread. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake in oven at 375 [degrees] F for about 20 minutes, or grill in a European-style sandwich grill until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is sufficiently melted.

Accompany with pickles and green salad.

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Article Details
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Author:Mellgren, James
Publication:Gourmet Retailer
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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