“We believe strongly in the necessity to recover the good food, traditions [and] history of our territory…through its amazing cheese.” Juan Luis Royuela, co-owner and director of Quesos La Cabezuela
Written by Leska Tomash – Sometimes words like passion, determination, focus and commitment get tossed around rather casually, and sometimes they get put into concrete action and a dream can become a reality.
Well, in 1991, couple Juan Luis Royuela and Yolanda Campos Gaspar did just that–they made major life changes. They left their professional careers–in communications and journalism, respectively– in search of a change that brought meaning, passion and a sense of discovery and enjoyment to their work.
After completing a cheese making course, Juan realized he had found his purpose.
So they revived the Spanish goat cheese producer Quesos La Cabezuela that was on the brink of closing, and the vision of the Royuela-Campos family became a reality.
So, why a goat milk cheesery?
Well, it started with the goats. La Cabezuela headquarters are in Fresnedillas de la Oliva– a “small town, close to everywhere and far from anywhere”– outside of Madrid in the Guadarrama mountains. Since the 17th century, a native breed of goats have inhabited the Guadarrama mountains. The Guadarrama goats are a hardy breed, well-suited to navigating their rocky terrain. They tolerate the cold and rainy climate of the Guadarrama area, but unfortunately the breed was nearing extinction. They presently number roughly 10,000.
The prospect of losing this significant chunk of history inspired the Royuela-Campos family to make it their mission to conserve the Guadarrama goat population by dedicating themselves to local cheesemaking traditions using only the milk of this specific goat.
The family holds a deep connection to the territory with an understanding that a sustainable future for the region and the Guadarrama goats starts with the people, the mountains, the traditions and the goats themselves. For La Cabezuela, their cheese production is “a way of life,” “a cultural and gastronomical expression of what [they] believe…is a modern and sustainable life.” La Cabezuela aspires to preserve the traditions of cheesemaking of this Spanish region and expose the world to these special cheeses that are inspired by the techniques and recipes of other parts of Europe.
What about those delicious cheeses?
Before the cheese, there is the milk. The goats graze on pastures of thyme, acorn, heather and grasses that impart the milk with the region’s unique terroir. Guadarrama goats produce just two liters of milk a day, compared to other dairy goats who average three to four liters per day. La Cabezuela works with shepherds who exclusively commit to Guadarrama flocks.
Without the goats and their milk there would be no…CHEESES!
Yes, the cheeses!
Rogers Collection offers three La Cabezuela cheeses that are all uniquely different and rooted in deep traditions.
Let’s start with Traditional Semi Curado. This delicately hand-salted cheese has a uniform texture with a smooth, grassy herbal flavor. Its two-month aging allows for a natural edible white mold rind which imparts a fresh wild mushroom finish.
Next up, is Roy Goat Cheddar, an homage to the buttery cow’s milk English cheddars–and to Roy, the Galician cheesemonger who introduced La Cabezuela to the celebrated cheddar producers in Lincolnshire and Devonshire Counties, where they learned the traditional techniques for making authentic English-style cheddars.
La Cabezuela created a cheese from Madrid using the milk from the Guadarrama goats that pays tribute to those classic giant English wheels with their buttery, cheddar flavors. Juan Luis says the undertaking of making a large Spanish goat cheese wheel was unusual and presented “professional challenges,” but he felt he had to seize the “opportunity to [make a] singular, special cheese.”
And what do you do with a big wheel of cheese? You crack it of course!
(And, pssst!, a little inside tip, if you happen to be at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City this year, swing by Rogers Collection booth for a special wheel cracking of this exceptional Roy Cheddar! Here’s a sneak peak video here!
Last–but certainly not least–is the Lingote Cremoso. This cheese was created after the discovery of an old Brie recipe published in a French book in 1915. The Lingote’s interpretation is not a classic brie, rather a creamy Spanish, but the brie inspiration is certainly present! Lingote uses, of course, Guadarrama milk and holds a soft aroma and delicate mouthfeel with a natural white rind developed from 45 days of aging in the cellar. Try it with fresh fruit, toasts, figs or get wild and try it with anchovies!
La Cabezuela cheeses are artfully and traditionally crafted from the cooking of the milk, to the separation of curds and whey, to the shape molding, to time spent on pine tree lumber to soak up the humidity and inform their final shape and texture, and, finally, to the humidity and temperature-controlled storeroom for aging.
The bedrock of these cheeses is, of course, the flavor of the Guadarrama goat milk: the unmistakable notes of acorn, thyme and heather. But La Cabezuela’s commitment to saving the breed and the cheesemaking traditions of the region come through in every bite!