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Manchego Cheese

 

MANCHEGO CHEESE

 

Origin:

La Mancha - Spain

 

Type:

Pasteurised sheep's milk; firm; pressed; aged for a minimum of 60 days to more than 3 years.

 

Fat content:

45% - 57%

 

History:

Manchego cheese is the most important and well-known sheep's milk cheese in Spain. The shape of this cheese is very characteristic and defined, due to the traditional use of esparto grass molds which imprints a zigzag pattern along the side of the cheese. The small wooden boards used for pressing the cheese also imprint the typical wheat ear pattern on the top and bottom. These rustic molds are used outside of La Mancha as well. Thus, there are other Spanish sheep's milk cheese with similar shape and markings, known commonly as "Manchego style" cheese. The true Manchego cheese, however, is made only from whole milk of the Manchega sheep raised in the "La Mancha" region. This region is a vast high plateau, more than 600 meters above sea level, which extends from east to west and north to south, adjoining the provinces of Toledo, Cuenca, Ciudad Real and Albacete, all in the Castile-La Mancha Autonomous Region southeast of Madrid. Manchego cheese has a long historic and literary tradition, as it was mentioned by Cervantes in the legendary "Don Quixote of La Mancha". Today, there are two types of Manchego cheese: the farmhouse type, made with unpasteurised sheep's milk and the industrial type, made with pasteurized milk. In both cases, however, milk from Manchega sheep is the only type used and the cheese is produced in clearly defined homogenous surroundings of wheat fields, fallow land and brush fields. The climate is extreme continental with cold winters and hot summers

 

Characteristics:

The rind is closed, clean and well engraved, of a yellow to a brownish beige color. The interior is firm and compact, closed, with a few small air pockets unevenly spread. The color is ivory to pale yellow. The taste is very characteristic, well developed, but not too strong, buttery and slightly piquant, with a sheep milk aftertaste. The shape is cylindrical, with flat top and bottom surfaces engraved with the typical "flower" left by the wooden presses. The sides show a zigzag pattern produced by the mat-weed (esparto) of the molds. Today, industrially produced cheeses have the same engraving, predesigned in the new industrial molds. While every cheeses weights between 2 and 3.5 Kg, the average weight is 3 kg.

 

Related Cheeses

Spanish Castellano, Ideazabal, Zamorano, Roncal.

 

Appropriate Wines

With young, immature cheese fruity Spanish reds and whites or a dry sherry.  With aged cheeses Spanish reds such as those from Pendes, Ribera del Duero and Rioja.

 

Bottom line

The intense taste and crumbly texture make it perfect to eat it as is, with a slice of bread. As the focal point of an Antipasto, Manchego can be served with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, crusty bread and a robust red wine (Rioja) or a dry sherry (Fino). It is equally enjoyable as a snack or dessert with fruit or fruit tarts. The aromatic intensity of a Manzanilla wine makes it an excellent foil for this cheese. The result is a magnificent combination of aromas giving a new sensation of complexity and elegance. Each brings out the flavor of the other and the fresh aromas are reminiscent of flowers, nuts and lavender.