Milk: Sheep, Raw Milk
Country: Portugal, Alentejo region
Accompaniment: Crisp whites, fruity light reds
Nisa is one of the traditional Portuguese cheeses that is still made using the traditional thistle rennet. This is the most unstable of all rennet choices and only very experienced cheesemakers use this (the makers of Nisa have been using the rennet for hundreds of years so they know its intricacies).
There are approximately 25 dairies that make the cheese following the traditional recipe. The milk is derived from a local sheep’s breed that is known for the high quality milk.
The thistle rennet tends to lend a sourness and bitterness to the cheese. I found that in the cheeses we received this was only very slightly the case. I found that the milkiness and nuttiness of the cheese clearly offset this.
The cheese is regularly brine washed and aged for a minimum of 45 days. The rind becomes firm and protects a semi-firm ivory paste.