by Margaux Alexandria Cintrano
Photos supplied by M. A. Cintrano from various sources
unless stated otherwise
Some people consider cheese the world´s first preserved food, and it’s certainly one of the best products that Spain has to offer. In the northern part of the country, while there are all kinds of cheeses, the ones made from cow´s milk are the most common.
In central Spain, the custom is sheep and goat cheese, also well represented in the Extremadura and Murcia regions and the seven Canary Islands. A large variety of Spanish cheeses are backed by the Denomination of Origin Boards of Regulation.
The Phoenicians and The Greeks were great cheese producers and their settlement on the Iberian Peninsula, from Empéries in Catalonia in the north to Cadiz in the south, were magnificent platforms from which to trade in the excellent sheep cheese varieties and goat cheeses of Hispania.
In most cases, the quality and the variety of Spanish cheeses are an invitation to enjoy them on their own, at any time of the day and they are a real taste treat. Since they are so versatile, they can be the ingredients for sweet and/or savory recipes, be added to salads and soups, and provide a huge range of culinary combinations.
The MANCHEGO: One of Spain´s ambassadors is MANCHEGO, a cylindrical cheese made from the Manchega breed of sheep in the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Toledo. Its flavor is acidic, strong, tasty and slightly spicy in the very cured varieties. The minimum maturing period is 30 days. A Manchego called Gran Reserva Dehesa de Los Llanos was designated the World Cheese Award Championship in 2012.
The TORTA DEL CASAR is an extraordinary cheese made from the raw milk of sheep and with a vegetable rennet of thistle in different parts of the province of Cáceres, Extremadura. The rind is somewhat hard and the cheese is very soft and creamy in texture. It is slightly fatty and sometimes has small cracks on the surface.
The Lacha and Carranzana breeds of sheep in the Basque Country and Navarre Region of northern Spain are the base of IDIAZÁBAL Cheese. A cylindrical cheese with a flat face, compact and a hard rind, its flavor slightly spicy and acidic.
CABRALES is typical of the Asturian Region, also in northern Spain, and produced in the Picos de Europa Mountains. The rind is grey and thin, and this blue cheese has an oily consistency and is quite pungent when aged and it is produced in several ways. 100% sheep cheese, a combination of raw sheep´s milk and goat´s milk.
Milk from the Churra and Castellana Sheep are the base for ZAMORANO Cheese, from the province of Zamora in Castilla León. It is a fatty cheese and is cured for a minimum of 100 days. Cylindrical, with a hard rind and a firm, compact consistency, it possesses an intense persistent taste and is highly aromatic.
From the Terra Chà in Lugo, Galicia produces the SAN SIMÓN DA COSTA Cheese, made from the milk of cows of the Rubia Gallega breed, the Parda Alpina breed and the Holstein races which have been crossed. Shaped in a form of a spinning top and a bullet, this cheese has a smoked and hard rind, while its filling is smooth, oily, slightly compact and dense.
The Majorera goats on the Canary Island of Fuerteventura produce the MAJORERO Cheese which is compact, slightly creamy and spicy depending on how long it has been cured or aged.
With a parallelepiped shape at the base, and rounded corners is the MAHÓN – MENORCA cheese from the Balearic Islands and is 100% cow milk. It has a semi-firm texture, a yellow ivory color, and a reddish-orange rind. It has a buttery taste.
In addition to these and other cheeses with a Denomination of Origin, is the BOFFARD from Valladolid, made from raw sheep´s milk and the aged Covap from Cordoba, which is from the Merino, Canary Islands, San Simón Da Costa Sheep.
To conclude, there are approximately 100 Spanish Cheeses with a Denomination of Origin and over 200 types, of rural produced small farmed cheeses throughout the country, including Girona´s 100% goat cheese Ricotta and 100% sheep cheese Ricotta for their symbolically renowned dessert called “Mei I mató” which was one of Salvador Dali and The Adrià Brothers´ favorite desserts.
The MEI E MATÓ is prepared with 1 kilo of whole milk Ricotta cheese, 1 cup of sugar, 3/ 4 cups of water, 1 / 2 cup of honey and 2 baskets of raspberries.
MEI E MATÓ RECIPE
Line sieve with several layers of moistened cheesecloth.
Set over bowl. Fill in with the Ricotta and gather the sides of the cheesecloth and wrap around the cheese. Refrigerate overnight.
Line a baking dish with foil and generously oil the foil to prevent sticking. Stir in a saucepan, the sugar, water and the honey in a heavy medium weight saucepan and simmer on low slow flame or heat.
Now, increase heat, and boil without stirring until the Candy thermometer registers 180°C and brush down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush. Swirl the pan for approx. 3 minutes.
Working quickly, pour 1 cup of this caramel into a skillet, and stir over medium heat until the caramel dissolves. Immediately pour the remaining caramel onto the oiled foil and tilt the baking sheet to create a thin layer of caramel. Cool completely.
Add the remaining water (1/2 cup) to the caramel in the skillet and pour this syrup into a bowl and let cool. Now, break the caramel on baking sheet into irregular pieces and take the cheese and form a dozen ovals using a heaping tablespoon and arrange the raspberries around the Ricotta (room temperature) and stand the caramel pieces around the cheese. Place the raspberries on top of the cheese. Makes 4 – 6 servings.
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