Saturday, July 16, 2011

São Moo-guel

The Azores is a grouping of nine islands located, pretty much, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Together, they are an autonomous region of Portugal and make the western-most part of Europe.

I was lucky enough to visit São Miguel, the largest of the islands, nicknamed "The Green Island", because of its steady, moderate climate and green landscape. I use of the word "large" only in comparison to the other islands. São Miguel, at its furthest points, is approximately 65 km long and 14 km wide. On some points of the island, you can actually stand and see both North and South sides at the same time!

Also an interesting fact: all mammals, with the exception of bats, were introduced to the island by humans. One of the animals you cannot go without seeing everywhere are black and white jersey cows. With a human population of approximately 240,000, I think I actually saw more cows than people!

These specific type of cows were brought to the island because of their ability to cope with/live in the climate and for their milk production. Dairy production is one of the main industries of the island.

I personally think the reason the Islanders brought these particular cows to São Miguel was because the Azoreans like the look of "black and white" against the backdrop of their land.

Do you think I'm joking? If so, here are a few random pictures that I think prove my theory.

I think that gives the expression "Holy Cow" a whole new meaning!

In any case, it is not unusual to see people milking their cows on their land.

As you can see, pumping can occur quite casually as the animal feeds comfortably off a trough.

The rich cow's milk is used to produce butter and many varieties of cheese.

One of the more memorable cheeses, for me, was "queijo fresco" or fresh cheese. The Azoroean version was a little different from the Spanish and Italian versions, of fresh cheese, I have tried. Their version is a bit saltier and is normally eaten with a red pepper sauce called, "molho de pimenta".

The milk itself is also used on São Miguel, like here at the "Festa do Espírito Santo" or Feast of the Holy Spirit. The feast, or more correctly feasts, take place over a number of weeks with activities including processions, crowns of the Holy Spirit and, of course, food. (There will be more to come regarding the Festa do Espírito Santo.)

On this particular day, milk was being distributed after a Catholic mass.

The milk was served alongside a sweetbread called "massa" or "massa sovada". This type of bread is also served during other holidays, including Christmas and Easter.

The bread is slightly dense, with a light crust and an eggy-sweet flavour.

What a pair!


  1. That cheese looks delish! Great post. Love the church photos.


  2. Thanks Angela! You would love it there!