São Jorge is one of the nine volcanic islands in the Azores archipelago, located in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s known for its cheese, which is made from cow’s milk and has been produced on the island for centuries. São Jorge is also home to stunning landscapes, including tall cliffs and deltas of land down near the ocean. It’s a peaceful place with a slow pace of life that is far from the hustle and bustle of cities. It’s truly a hidden gem that’s waiting to be explored!
On this island, we discover the world-famous cheese factory where we witness the traditional methods of making cheese that have been passed down for over 500 years. The cheese cooperative on São Jorge produces an average of one hundred thousand wheels of cheese per year, which are distributed across the world. I was fortunate enough to try the delicious cheese, which had the perfect texture, and was creamy, buttery, and smooth.
I also had the pleasure of meeting a Dutch couple, Pieter and Reni, who had made the island their home. Pieter is an artist, sailor, musician, business owner, and author, while Reni is a silk artist and puppeteer. They entertained me with their artistic talents, and Pieter even drew a portrait of me that made me look years younger! Together, they own a café, which is also an art gallery, showcasing Pieter’s work.
During my stay on the island, I also learned how to make a local dessert called Espécies, which is a pastry filled with a spiced mixture of sugar, cinnamon, anise, and breadcrumbs. The pastry is made using simple ingredients such as butter, lard, flour, and salt. It was delightful to watch Maria Fatima, who has one of the most famous bakeries in São Jorge create beautiful little pieces of art with ease. And after trying the Espécies, I can confidently say that it was the best I have ever had on the island.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to learn about the traditional Holy Ghost soup, which is a dish associated with the Azores. Leslie, a local, showed me how to make the soup, which involves cooking meat with onions, garlic, and allspice, and serving it over bread that has been soaked in soup stock. The soup was bursting with flavors of garlic, onion, and cinnamon, and the bread melted in my mouth. It was an absolute delight to learn about this traditional dish and its history.