A Bit of History:
Well out into the Atlantic Ocean (about 900 miles) off the coast of Portugal lies a chain of small islands called the Azores. It makes sense that in the early days of trans-Atlantic exploration, small wooden ships discovering the new world stopped here. The Azores naturally became a promising place to replenish fresh water, supplies, etc.
Due to its location, situated in the middle of the Atlantic Gulf Stream, the Azores have a mild, damp climate and, due to its volcanic geology, a richly fertile soil that supports abundant vegetation. All these factors contribute towards favorable conditions for dairying – the island is home to 20,000 dairy cows - and cheese making.
The development of Saint George Island (São Jorge) was originally made in the early 15th century by a group of Flemish settlers from the Netherlands, who brought with them both livestock and cheese making knowledge. These folks came to find that the highlands of the island were quite similar to their homeland, where they were experienced in production of meat, milk and dairy products, most notably their cheese.
Today, with twice as many cattle as people, and grass for the cows to enjoy at its higher elevations, the island has become renowned for this strong white cheese.
In 1986, a key step in maintaining the high quality of the São Jorge cheese into the future was implemented with the regulation of registration for Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) attributed to this cheese.
This regulation now determines where and how the cheese is made and aged.
Similar cheeses are made in other areas of the Azores, but they are simply known as Queijo da Ilha or “Island Cheese.”