Catalan Cheese Stories – La Teca de Vila Vinetica.
Being driven to the point of obsession has been Brunyfire’s search for working clay pots that reflect the place from which they originate, both in their form and function, in their material makeup and for the food that is associated with them. This to date has led to some remarkable experiences. It has led to visiting the countries that these pots have come from; to meeting the people that make them; those who use them and the food from which many of these pots get their name. All of which has amounted to any amazing extension to the Bruny Boathouse collection during this latest travel sojourn by some 30 pieces to date – and there is still a couple of months left to go before returning home.
So this next yarn is driven by a very unassuming little pot, but it has a pungent story to tell. Tupí cheese, or ‘fromage de Tupí’ literally means ‘cheese in a pot’. This is a traditional cheese originating from the Pyrenees Mountains of Catalonia and gets its name from the terracotta pot that it is made in (tupina). The image above (from the web) illustrates the type of pot that Tupí would have been made in in the past – but it was more likely to have been a small ‘olla’ like the ones Brunyfire recently purchased. This is an interesting cheese, and not one for the faint hearted. Tupí can be made from sheep, goat or cow’s milk, but originally, was made by the Catalan shepherds of the Pyrenees. Leftover and overly mature bits of serrat cheese were placed in a clay vessel (the Tupí) and mixed with a strong liquor like orujo (grappa), anis or ratafía and olive oil. Many modern dairies make their own tupí and sell the cheese in small clay vessels, such as Tupi de Sort.The makers of Tupí de Sort is produced by Tros de Sort, an artisan cheese factory, founded in 1995 by five dairy farmers from Pallars Sobirà, who work exclusively with unpasteurized whole milk from cows fed on grass in the high mountain meadows of the Pyrenees.
Brunyfire’s first experience with the whole notion of cheese tasting came about in the hunt for Tupí cheese in a pot, and the only place seemed to be La Teca de Vila Vinetica, Carrer dels Agullers, 7. Whilst the cheese tasting itself was very disappointing, served in a very desultory manner by the young cheesemaster with little information…… ……..meeting Eva Vila, however, the manager of La Teca de Vila Ciniteca, a family run business first established in 1932, was a real treat – despite her lack of English and Brunyfire’s bastardised Spanish. Eva was able to explain that Tupí cheese was originally made in the stomach lining of a sheep and hung, it was only later that it was made in the clay pots. Eva Vila is a highly accomplished affineur – someone who receives cheese from the producer and cares for it, ageing it in readiness to serve the consumer. She recounts that during the 1960s and 1970s, small neighborhood food shops were replaced by bigger supermarket chains, which supplied industrially produced cheeses, like Manchego, Idiazabal (Basque, smoked) and Cabrales (Asturian, blue). The craft versions of these cheeses could still be found in old shops, however, the variety of traditional Catalan cheeses in general was significantly reduced.
This trend is fortunately being overturned and there are numerous opportunities to taste and purchase artisan produced cheeses these days.Meanwhile, back at the apartment, a tubful of Tupí, fresh figs and nectarines, locally baked bread from Gràcia with a splurge of local honey and a glass of red.
La Teca de Vila Viniteca Address: Carrer Agullers 9, Born – La Ribera Web: http://www.vilaviniteca.es/es/la_teca Hours: 8:30am-8:30pm (Sat. 8:30am-2:30pm in July & August); closed Sunday