It was surprising to see so many dairy products in Portugal with origins in the Azores (Os Açores), a small Portuguese archipelago located 900 miles from Lisbon in the Atlantic ocean. At first we thought that seemed terribly exotic – but it turns out that much of Portugal’s dairy comes from the Azores. Dairy production is the biggest industry in the Azores, and the archipelago is particularly verdant (see below). Azorean Immigrants also brought their dairy culture with them when they traveled to their new homes. One such area, Marin County in California, owes much of its dairy heritage to the Azores: “As late as the 1940s, there was a saying that a traveler from the Golden Gate to Petaluma would never be out of site of a Portuguese dairy.”
In our stay in Lisbon we have sampled Azorean milk, cheese and butter. Azorean butter is bright yellow – much brighter yellow than typical butter in the US – the color is due to lots of Beta Carotene from the fresh green grazing grass in the Azores. We just had some salted Azorean butter and even when spread on simple crackers you can tell the difference. The Azores are also known for the quality of their cheeses, and there are several cheeses with DOP protection, including São Jorge and Pico. So go figure, despite being smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores are the Wisconsin of Portugal!