Tenerife also produces high quality cheeses. It should not surprise you that the Canary Islands is the autonomous region that consumes the most cheese per person each year, with figures that vary between 14 and 16 kilograms per person: in total volume this adds up to about 24,000 tonnes a year. Of this amount, about half is locally produced, and approximately 80 per cent of these are farmhouse cheeses which generate an important income for the farming sector.
There are doubts among historians as to whether the Guanches, the primitive inhabitants of Tenerife, made cheese or just drank fresh milk, as there are no references or archaeological finds that demonstrate it. In fact, the main history of cheese making in the Canary Islands started after the arrival of the Europeans who brought techniques and methods from other regions and countries. Nowadays, cheese is made by modern techniques and in full compliance with the European regulations for cheeses from unpasteurised milk: the Canary Islands are also in a Goat and Sheep Brucellosis free zone (also known as the "Maltese fever").
A large amount of the cheese is made locally, although as mentioned, under strict controls and regulations. The most commonly used milk is Goat's milk and in particular, indigenous breeds well known for their high production and quality are used. In some cases they add sheep's milk which gives the cheese greater stickiness during maturation. They are considered a real part of Canarian gastronomy and there are different farmhouse cheeses made according to the traditions and methods in each area or county.
The most commonly eaten cheese is called "fresco" (fresh), just a few days old, without too much pressing and drained on its own. It has a light, pleasant taste, slightly salty with an aroma of fresh milk. There are also "fresh" cheeses, which are smoked with special woods, almond shells etc, which gives them a unique character and a longer shelf life. Cured cheeses require a few weeks in storage and there are various methods for doing this ranging from natural methods to others in which the cheese is covered with pepper or Gofio. These methods are typical of cheeses from the Anaga area, where Gofio is made from "millio" (the common name for sweet corn on the Canary Islands). There is not a large number of cheese recipes in restaurants or in homes: mainly cheese accompanies a range of dishes, especially "potajes" (vegetable soups and broths), and in the past, cheese was eaten with fruit, such as grapes, figs, bananas etc, as well as the with the excellent honey from Tenerife. The recipe most commonly used is "queso asado" (fried cheese) or "queso a la plancha"(grilled cheese), where it is usually accompanied by a "mojo" (sauce) nearly always made from light or "green" coriander or parsley although sometimes red sauces are used.