Hailing from the Azores, São Jorge, a tangy raw cow’s milk cheese, is named for an island in the archipelago, where dairying and cheesemaking flourish thanks to a mild, damp climate and fertile volcanic soil. The history of cheese here goes back to when settlers from mainland Europe colonized the islands, bringing along livestock and cheesemaking knowledge. Though fresh cheese styles are part of Azorean cheesemaking, aged cheeses like São Jorge proliferated; better able to withstand transportation, they became popular as hearty sustenance for crews at sea.
Wheels of this cooked-curd, pressed cheese are awarded Protected Destination of Origin (PDO) if they’re made on the island. São Jorge, however, is so beloved that Portuguese and Azorean immigrant cheesemakers in the United States make their own versions as a tribute to their homeland. You might try the version from California’s Matos Cheese Factory for a well-known American take; here, it’s often known as St. George.
With a firm, slightly waxy texture throughout its straw-colored paste, São Jorge is distinctly munchable, a fantastic table cheese. On the nose, it’s aromatic and rich. On the palate, São Jorge is full and buttery. Matured for at least 90 days, the cheese has an underlying tang that becomes accentuated with age. Eat alone or add to any meal that needs a touch of robust flavor. Pair with full-bodied reds like Port or Madeira.