Legend has it that the Celts, settled in the mountains of Serra da Carba and the Xistral (in the central zone of the province of Lugo in Galicia), that invented this type of smoked cheese, that in time of the Romans was sent To Rome, for its special characteristics of flavor and duration.
Later, in the Middle Ages, it was used for the payment of forums and tithes to the feudal lords and to the Church. When the payment of the forums was abolished, it was still customary in many parishes even until the twentieth century to pay for the christening ceremonies with two cheeses from San Simón da Costa.
Due to its quality and taste, official documentation of the presence of these cheeses outside the Galician territory is published at the beginning of the XX century.
In the State Exhibition held in 1857 on Mount Príncipe Pío in Madrid, businessmen from Lugo attended taking forty different kinds of products, as well as twenty seven medicinal plants and fifty seven kinds of wood. An article published in a September edition of “La Aurora del Miño” newspaper of that year describes the event: “common wheat, turnips, green peas, chestnuts which are the main staple of the region’s farm labourers, eau de vie, and sulphuric ether extracted from the strawberry tree, butter that equals that of Flanders, San Simón cheese, linen, medicinal plants …”
In 1892 the Villaba Council approved the expense of 20 pesetas for acquiring two San Simón cheeses to be sent to the Chicago Exhibition. This can be seen in Antonio Peña Novo’s book, “Villalba en el siglo XIX” (Villalba in the 19th Century).
In the Dairy Industry Exhibition held on Madrid in in 1913, the Lugo Provincial Council presented a selection of San Simón cheeses. When King Alfonso XIII visited the exhibition and saw the size, shape and appearance of the San Simón cheeses, he asked how they were made. Mr Armendáriz, the Lugo Veterinary Inspector of that time gave him a detailed description.
On 10th August, 1932, the “Faro Villalbés” newspaper published an article signed by Veterinary Surgeon Rof Codina describing this cheese and, among other things, mentioning:
“In the third national dairy produce competition held in Madrid, the cheeses that attracted most attention from the better-off visitors were the San Simón cheeses that the Lugo Provincial Council exhibited in the Dairy Section. In view of this success, the House of Lhardy asked for a monthly delivery of a thousand kilos (…)” In the District of Villalba, where the San Simón cheese is produced, birch wood clog-making is a home industry in almost all the villages. The shavings from making these are used for smoking the cheese (…) “.
The Spanish Inventory of Traditional Products, published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1996, has a detailed description of San Simón cheese:
“A traditional Galician cheese, made by traditional home production methods that keep ancestral products methods alive (…) Its shape and smoking characterise and identify it (…)”.
Currently San Simón da Costa cheese is consolidating new markets in Europe and other continents.