It's there for the tasting!
Cheese is an everyday product in the Spanish way of living. It is a basic dairy product, served as is or added to foods to enhance them. Spain has a large variety of cheeses and each variety unmistakeably expresses the characteristics of its origins, such as the milk, the grazing lands, the climate, and the method of production
and even the microbiology of the region. Depending on the local climate and farming customs, the cheeses are made using three types of milk: sheep's, cow's and goat's, although mixtures of them are also used.
Of the more than 100 different cheeses produced in Spain, only 12 are protected by the D.O., the "Denomination of Origin" symbol that certifies the authenticity of each variety tangy Manchego, sharp rich Zamorano, smokey Idiazábal, savory Majorero, Mahón (with its paprika-scented rind), mild Tetilla and robust Cabrales, one of the world's greatest blues.
The Denomination of Origin Regulatory Board also establishes the norms of manufacturing for each one of the products protected by its local D.O. If you are a cheese lover, you should not miss the chance to try the different cheeses, many of which are only available on a local basis. Find out what type of milk was used, see if it is a D.O. protected kind, ask how it should be cut and stored.
The Cheese of Don Quixote
"Delicious-slightly piquant and nutty"
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 by the traditional use of esparto grass molds which imprint 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. Although there are other Spanish sheep's milk cheeses with similar shape and markings, the true Manchego cheese is made only from whole milk of the Manchega sheep raised in the "La Mancha" region.
Today, there are two types of Manchego cheese: the farmhouse type, made with non pasteurized sheep's milk and the industrial type, made with pasteurized milk.