Afuega'l Pitu is one of the oldest Spanish cheeses. It is also famous as one of the most widespread Asturian cheeses. The name Afuega'l Pitu is derived from the 'bable' Asturian dialect. It means 'choking cake'. The name Afuega'l Pitu also symbolises one of the legendary Spanish customs, 'drowning the rooster' referring to cheese producers feeding a piece of the freshly made cheese to a rooster.
The cheese is produced from cow's full-fat milk in towns that dot the lower basins of river Narcea and river Nalón in the central Asturias-Northern Spain. It is made by curdling in a mould at a temperature of between 20° and 25°C (68° and 77°F), for 10 to 48 hours. During its preparation, animal rennet is added. The cheese comes in different types recognised by its shape, added ingredients, and the ageing period.
- Troncado/Atroncáu (Trunk): the shape of a bishop's mitre or inverted flowerpot
- Trapo/Trapu (Rag/Cloth): cheese block is round and resembles a shape of a cloth bag
- Roxu/Rojo: paprika (red chilli or bell pepper powder) is added while making the cheese, or the cheese is rolled in paprika, taking its red colour. This type of Afuega’L Pitu has a very strong, spicy flavour as it is always eaten when matured. It is tasted like a "tapa" or dessert, generally accompanied by bread.
- Blanco/Blancu: made without adding paprika.
The cheese is also available in three varieties, Cured, Semi-cured and Soft, depending on the ageing period.
Though this cheese is produced all year round, the best type is the one made during spring and winter as the fat content of the milk is at its highest!
Afuega'l Pitu is eaten either when fresh and slightly aired or once matured after several weeks in a fresh, damp, well-ventilated atmosphere.