Spanish Cheeses - A One-Stop Guide
Spain 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 flat lands 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.
Cheese is a mainstay of the Spanish diet where it is eaten just about every day, whether by itself, or with bread, or as a tapa or even 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 being able to enjoy good fresh Spanish cheese, 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.
Types of Spanish Cheese
Spanish cheeses are wide and varied but can be divided into three main classes:
Fresh Cheese ( Queso Fresco ) :- This is cheese which has not been cured or aged in any way.
Semi-Cured ( Queso Semi Curado) :- Semi-cured is for cheese which has been aged for around two to four months.
Cured ( Queso Curado) :- This is cured cheese that has been cured for 4 months upwards.
Spains DOP Cheese Regions
Like wine production, Spain uses the DOP system for its cheese classification, there are 28 DOP ( Protected Designations of Origin ) regions in Spain plus 2 IGP ( Protected Geographical Locations) regions.
The DOP Regions are:
- Afuega L'Pitu - Asturias
- Arzua-Ulloa - A Coruna
- Cabrales - Asturias
- Queixo de Cabreiro - Ourense
- Gamonedo - Asturias
- Queso de L'Alt & La Cerdanya - Catalonia
- Picon / Bejes /Tresviso - Ciudad Real
- Queso Camerano - Badajoz
- Queso Casin - Asturias
- Queso de la Serana - Badajoz
- Queso de Mahon - Menorca
- Queso de Murcia - Murcia
- Queso de Murcia ala Vino
- Murcia al Vino - Murcia
- Mahon - Menorca
- Picon - Ciudad Real
- Queixo de Cabreiro - Ourense
- Queso Flor de Guia - Las Palmas
- Queso Ibores - Caseres
- Queso Idiazabel - Gibuzkoa
- Queso Majorero - Fuerteventura
- Queso Manchego - Ciudad Real
- Queso Nata de Cantabria - Cantabria
- Queso Palmero - La Palma
- Queso Roncal - Navarra
- Queso Tetilla - Galicia
- Queso Zamorano - Zamora
- Quesucos de Liebana - Cantabria
- Roncal - Navarra
- San Simon de Costa - Galicia
- Torta del Casar - Exremadura
- Queso de Valdeon
- Queso Los Beyos
Spain's Most Famous Cheeses
Manchego Cheese – La Mancha
Manchego is Spain's best-known cheese, named after the province of La Mancha where it is made. The area is best know as the home of Don Quixote, this popular is relatively sweet and mild as cheeses go, with mild to very strong tasts depending on the cured age, it also has a touch of salty nuts.
Manchego was originally made to barter at livestock markets as it provided durable food for the shepherds.
Cabrales Cheese - Asturias
Cabrales is a blue cheese 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.
Tetilla - La Coruña
Tetilla D.O.P 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Marjorero - Fuerteventura
Marjorero is a popular goats cheese 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.
Popular Spanish Cheese Dishes
Baked Tetilla Cheese with Escalivada
This dish uses Tettila cheese, oregano, aubergines, red pepper, red onions, olive oil, garlic and brandy.
Homemade Cheese Puffs with Sesame Seeds and Honey
An interestingly tasty dish by Spanish Sabores using Spanish Manchego cheese, sessame seeds, sweet paprika, eggs, creamy cows milk, extra virgen olive oil and honey.
Manchego Cheese Dishes Prepared in Just 5 Minutes
A tasty selection of fun and delicious quick to prepare Manchego cheese recipes from Gastronomic Spain. Delighfull crown pleasing dishes including Chorizo and Manchego Scones, Manchego Rarebit, Ham and Manchego Croquettes and marinated Manchego cheese.
Fried Manchego Cheese with Romesco Sauce
This is one our favourites created by Albert Bevia of Spain On a Fork, this dish is easy to prepare and uses Manchego cheese paired with a tasty fresh Romenesco Sauce.
Spanish Style Macaroni Cheese with Manchego and Chorizo
This takes mac and cheese to the next level. A delightful dish created by EB at Easy Peasy Foodie.
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