A guide to the most popular Spanish cheeses



pain produces well over 100 different varieties of cheese with each region offering up it's own specialty from fresh to cured, fermented to blue-veined.

One essential characteristic is the type of milk used in the production which varies from region to region, the time of the year it is produced, the climate and tradition.  Spanish cheese is made from cows, sheep's or goats' milk, or indeed a mixture of all three.

In general cow's milk cheeses are found in the north, along the Cantabrian coast, from Galicia to the Basque Country, and along the northern Cantabric Mountain Range and the Pyrenees. Sheep's milk cheeses are found inland, from the north, in Cantabria and the Basque Country, down to the flats of Castilla-León, Castilla La Mancha, Aragón and Extremadura. And finally goat's milk cheeses are found mostly along the regions of the Mediterranean coast, from Catalonia to Andalucia.

On the Canary Islands as well as the Balearic islands, you will find mostly goat's milk cheese as well as mixed milk cheeses. Mixed milk cheeses are generally produced across the whole country with the predominant milk of each area being more used in the mixes. Quality cheese production is taken very seriously in Spain as there are currently 13 cheeses with Denominations of Origin in Spain.

Spanish eat cheese every day, whether it is by itself, or with bread, as a tapa, or as a dessert. Because of the variations in climate and geography, as well as culture, each region of Spain can produce several or more varieties of cheese. Each cheese has its own unique characteristics that affect the finished product, such as the type of milk (sheep, goat, cow or a mixture), the production process, the history or traditions and the ageing or curing process.

You are never far away from a good cheese in Spain, all of which are readily available to buy in municipal markets,  larger supermarkets and specialty shops. The smaller delicatessen shops are a great place to buy cheese as you will find the shopkeepers are usually better prepared to assist with extra information on the varieties and flavours available.

Spains D.O Cheese Regions

Like the wine Spain uses the DO system for its cheese classification, the DO regions of Spain are:

Manchego – Ciudad Real

Manchego  is Spain's best-known  ewe's-milk cheese. It is named for the province where it is made-La Mancha, home of Don Quixote. However, it is not as flamboyant as the old windmill fighter. It remains relatively sweet and mild at any age with a touch of salty nuts. Manchego was originally made to barter at livestock markets and it provided durable food for the shepherds.

Cabrales Cheese -  Asturias

Cabrales is a blue  of great character. It is handmade on farms in the Picos de Europa mountains of Northern Spain and matured in caves which are aired by cold, damp, and salty winds blowing up from the Bay of Biscay. Traditionally Cabrales gourmet cheese is made with a mixture of cow, sheep and goat milk; the locals say that cow's milk acidifies the cheese.  This is one of the finest blue cheeses in Spain offering different types of flavours depending on the type of milk used.  The humidity level in the caves is around 90% with a temperature between 8 and 12C. the environment necessary to promote the growth of penicillin spores which gives the cheese is green patches and  blue veins. The ripening stage in the caves lasts between 2 and 5 months, the cheese is regularly cleaned and turned during that time.

Mahon cheese  - Balearic Islands

Mahon cheese has a distinctively fruity cheese is named for the major town of the island of Menorca.  Local farmers have been making cheese here for centuries but its reputation rests on the skill of the local experts,  who collect the young cheeses from the  producing farms and proceed to ripen them in underground cellars for two months to two years.

During the maturity process butter paprika and olive oil is often rubbed onto the rind. This cheese is quite dense in texture with a salty buttery taste and is often eaten with olive oil, tarragon and black pepper.

Manchego Cheese
Manchego Cheese

 

Marjorero -  Fuerteventura

Marjorero is a popular goats cheese Goats  principally made in Valencia, Murcia, Andalucia, Extremadura and the Canary Islands. Goat's cheeses, as with all Spanish cheeses,  comes in a variety of flavours and shapes. Marjorero cheese is one of the most popular  and originates from the Canary island of Fuerteventura.  Marjorero cheese is quite fatty and string smelling.  It is a hard pressed cheese made from the tasty Marjorero goats milk and up to 15% sheeps milk from other parts of the Canary Islands. The secret of its taste comes from the aromatic full fatty full flavour of the Marjorero goat, which is capable of producing up to 2 litres of milk a day.    A cheese museum was opened in 2014 to celebrate this famous Canary delicacy which is located in Antigua on Las Palmas.

Nata de Cantabria Cheese  -  Cantabria

Cantabria's creamy cheese  comes from the Cantabrian sea coastal region of Cantabria, in Northern Spain (Vizcaya Gulf). Before obtaining the Denomination of Origin it was only known as Queso de Nata.  It's name, creamy cheese perfectly defines the qualities of this cheese. Soft, it almost melts in your mouth, leaving smooth flavours of cream cheese but with a delicious distinctive bitter point.

Roncal cheese  - Navarra

Roncal cheese comes from the rich sheep's milk of the legendary Lacha and Aragonesa breeds of oveja sheep. Depending on the season, these herds graze in the high Pyrenees or the Bardena area of Navarra, the province that was the setting for Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." Roncal, made in one of seven villages in the Valle de Roncal, has nutty and piquant flavors with a firm, chewable texture. Somewhat similar to Pecorino Toscano and Manchego, Roncal has its own unique, mouth-watering character and pairs well with many types of wine. try this cheese with Tempranillo.

Tetilla  - La Coruña

Tetilla D.O. is an unusual cheese. The remarkable thing about this is its shape as it looks like a breast ( Tetilla ).  This wide conical cheese from Galicia is made from the milk of cows grazed on the lush pastures behind the coastal mountain ranges. The cheese is made from pasteurised cow's milk and has a yellow rind  and is creamy and slightly salty in flavour. The milk used for the production comes from well know breeds such as  Frisians, Alpine Browns and Rubia Gallega.

Zamorano - Zamora

Zamoran0 is a hard sheep's milk cheese. It differs from the well-known Manchego as it has nuttier and richer flavour. Zamorano cheese has a slightly sharp bite, is buttery with a nutty after taste and a texture that melts in the mouth. You need to pair this cheese with a full-bodied red or white wine.

Afuega L. Pitu

Afuega'l Pitu means fire in the throat because its concentrated taste gives a hot sensation as if it sticks to the back of your throat. The young version of this gourmet cheese has a milky flavour and is medium soft in texture, it is also smooth with some granular structures. Mature Afuega'l Pitu has a very taste and is only recommended for the true cheese connoisseur.

Cabra A Romero

Cabra al Romero is a relatively new goat's cheese.  The dairy that makes it is based in La Mancha in Central Spain and is the same company that makes the famous Manchego cheese. The Cabra al Romero cheese is coated with rosemary, perfuming the inside without being overwhelming.

Idiazabal Cheese

Originally produced high in the Pyrenees above Pamplona, this rustic ewe's milk cheese was often smoked in the rafters of the shepherds' huts. Today, Idiazabel  is made all over the Basque country in both factory and farmstead, from unpasteurised milk.  The cheese is produced in small drum shapes in varying sizes.

Arzula Illoa

Arzua Ulloa is also called Queso de Ulloa and is made in Galicia, in the the North Western part of Spain. This is a pale, soft and creamy  cow´s milk cheese which  becomes stronger in flavour the longer it ripens and matures. The cheese can be made with either pasteurised or raw milk and can range in age anywhere from two weeks to about six months.

Torta de Casar

Torta refers to its shape, in Spanish legends, shepherds who first made the cheese realised that the inside of the cheese remained semi liquid, causing the middle of the cheese to sink. The shepherds used the word 'atortao', meaning 'cake-shaped'. Torta de Casar has an intense aroma with a well developed flavour with a touch of bitterness which comes from the rennet planet used in coagulation.  The texture is smooth and melts in your mouth with very little saltiness.

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