Afuega'l Pitu has been made for centuries in the region of Asturias in Northern Spain. It is considered to be one of the oldest Spanish cheeses. It was used in the 18th century as form of payment for taxes.
The cheese is made from unpasteurized cows milk, from the Friesian and Asturiana de los Valles breeds of cattle. Paprika (pimental) is added to some varieties, giving the cheese a different flavor and a reddish color. The cheese is cured from 5 days to 60 days.
Depending on how long it has been cured, Afuega'l Pitu is either soft or semi-hard. The soft varieties are similar to a firm cream cheese and are spreadable. The taste has been described as tangy, for the younger varieties, to nutty, for older varieties.
The hand-made cheese comes in two shapes:
- Troncado (or atroncau) is formed in a mold and is often similar to an upside-down cone or an upside-down flower pot.
- Trapo (or Trapu) is formed by cloth used to drain the cheese. Often described as pumpkin or pear-shaped.
Additionally the cheese is described as blanco/blancu (white) if it is made without paprika, or rojo/roxu (red) if paprika or cayenne have been added. Red varieties have a stronger flavor.
What does the name Afuega'l Pitu mean?
We've found several different answers. Depending on what website you believe, the name means "fire in the gut", "fire in the throat", "fire in the palate", "choking cake". The Spanish language wikipedia article about Afuega'l Pitu says the name literally means "to strangle the chicken," but no one knows why the cheese is named that.
Some have theorized that it is so named because the texture of the cheese makes it hard to swallow. Others believe it may have been used as chicken feed. Another theory is that the name refers to "strangling" the neck of the cloth bag that is used to drain the cheese.
The name comes from the Asturian language -- a language similar to Spanish spoken in part of northern Spain. The article in Asturian on Wikipedia offers no suggestions about what the cheese's name means.
Ca Sanchu makes Afuega'l Pitu. Their website is in Spanish (and Asturian), but you don't need to know the language to enjoy the pictures of Afuega'l Pitu being made. (Note: you'll need to wait until about the 8th picture on the slide show to get to the good pictures of Afuega'l Pitu.)
The Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Protegida Afuega'l Pitu is the organization in Spain that regulates the production and quality of Afuega'l Pitu. Their website has information about the cheese, how it's made, and who makes it, but the website is in Spanish.
We bought some Afuega'l Pitu from latienda.com and wrote about it. Read our review about Afuega'l Pitu and see what we thought.