Queijo Minas is a kind of cheese originally handcrafted in Minas Gerais, Brazil. It is made from raw cow milk and it can be ripened or not. Variations of Minas cheese, including frescal, which is soft and moist, are available in most Brazilian supermarkets.
In May 2008, the original firm, ripened Minas cheese was declared a Brazilian Immaterial Cultural Heritage by IPHAN, the Brazilian Institute for National Historic and Artistic Heritage.
IPHAN official Ângela Gutierrez said in a report by Agência Brasil that the origins of Minas cheese can be traced to Serra da Estrela, a mountain range in Portugal with similar characteristics to the mountains of Minas Gerais.
During the exploration of gold and diamond mines (minas) in the eighteenth century, Minas cheese was an important food supply which kept well during long trips and could be taken down into the mines without spoiling.
Handcrafted Minas cheese is a staple of Minas Gerais diet, an essential ingredient of pão de queijo and a genuinely Brazilian product made according to techniques that have been passed down several generations.
According to IPHAN, a specific legislation with strict regulations for every step of Minas cheese production, starting from additional hygienic conditions of the herd, had to be implemented to allow for the fact that, unlike other dairy products in Brazil, Minas cheese uses non-pasteurized milk.
In this handcrafted tradition, the corrals where cows are milked and the cheese making area must be tranquil places with just the essential number of workers, or producers say the process won't turn out right.
Serro, Serra da Canastra and Serra do Salitre are the regions where the most authentic handcrafted Minas cheese is produced.
One of the most popular desserts in Brazil is Minas cheese with goiabada, a sweet made from guavas.