For anyone who appreciates cheese, Europe is a real journey of discovery. Cheese plays an essential role in the gastronomy of all of the 27 Member States of the European Union. As well as being used in cooked dishes, salads and snacks, fine cheese makes the perfect end to a good meal.
Every country in the European Union boasts its own traditional cheeses: an astonishing parade of flavours, textures and sizes. Altogether there are at least a thousand varieties – some with histories dating back centuries, others relatively new. All are excellent sources of calcium, for healthy bones and teeth, vitamins A and B-12, and protein. What’s more, European cheese can add a special flair to Mexican favourites like quesadillas or enchiladas, or to make a tangy dip to accompany totopos.
A taste trip to Europe might start with Tiroler Bergkäse (PDO), a mild-flavoured mountain cheese from Austria, or why not discover the wide variety of cheeses from Denmark. Every country in the European Union offers a multitude of cheeses with diverse tastes, textures, colours, and aromas!
A bite of Halloumi traditionally made from goat’s or sheep’s milk, flavoured with mint and matured in brine, will transport you to Cyprus. Because it does not melt when heated, Halloumi can be fried until it develops a delicious crust. Mozzarella di Bufala (PDO), made in Italy from buffalo’s milk, is a mild, fresh cheese that is perfect for both salads and hot dishes.
A taste of the intense savoury flavour of the iconic French Brie de Meaux (PDO), a round, flat cheese that ripens to a melting softness, will give you a moment of pure pleasure. Also ready to take you on a sensory adventure is Roquefort (PDO), made from unpasteurised sheep’s milk and an example of Europe’s “blue” cheeses – so called because they are veined with Penicillium mould that adds complex, pungent flavours.
Nor do Europe’s farmers limit themselves to cheese-making. Sour cream is a staple in Hungary, while Greece and Bulgaria are famous for thick, creamy yoghurt. In place of olive oil, northern countries such as Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands traditionally cook with rich butter – an essential ingredient in Europe’s famous cakes and biscuits. High-quality European butter, cream and yoghurt can also be used as ingredients to add a taste of Europe to many Mexican dishes.
A thousand routes to tradition
Reflecting the huge range of European cheeses are the 254 regional varieties covered by the EU’s coveted geographic designations, of which 57 are protected in Mexico under the EU-Mexico Free Trade Agreement. The Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) labels are badges of authenticity for many of Europe’s finest cheeses.
Some of these were first made more than a thousand years ago. They are a living tradition, a cultural atlas of this diverse continent with its many different peoples and climates.
One trait that all of these cheeses share is their authentic origin. Thanks to Europe’s strict rules on labelling and traceability, consumers can be confident that cheeses from the EU are always exactly what they claim to be.
Safety and quality to depend on
European cheese may come from a large factory, a small farmers’ co-operative or even an individual farm. Whatever the source, it will have been produced safely and in a way that protects animal health and respects the environment. The EU’s reputation depends on doing things right: it’s no coincidence that five out of the top ten global dairy companies are European.
All EU Member States have registration systems for farm animals to ensure effective disease prevention and control. All milk-producing animals in the EU are therefore accounted for and checked regularly for disease. High standards for living and transport conditions, and for animal feed, are enforced by law and help to keep livestock healthy. EU farmers are not allowed to use growth hormones.
At the farm, milk is chilled to 6°C or below and kept refrigerated during processing. The rules for hygienic production, packaging and labelling are strict, so all batches of finished dairy products are fully traceable.
EU certification for organic products means that consumers can appreciate that the food they eat comes from farms that observe additional environmental and animal welfare standards.