Spanish cheeses are gaining great popularity after winning international prizes in major gastronomic competitions around the world. Earlier this year, we presented three magnificent French cheeses for your enjoyment. Now, it is our turn to introduce three prestigious cheeses from Spain.
This cheese is so greatly appreciated that it has a guaranteed designation of origin; it has been recognized officially as a European Culinary Heritage Product and has received the gold medal from the International Academy of Gastronomy, becoming one of the best European cheeses. Idiazábal is made with milk from the latxa sheep, typical of the Pyrenees. The milking is done manually and takes place between March and July. This cheese is easily recognizable for its small size, cylindrical shape, hard and smooth crust and homogeneous color ranging from pale yellow to dark brown. It is produced only in the Basque Country and Navarra and has a smoked, slightly spicy, intense and balanced flavor. Lovers of this Basque product descend upon Uharte-Arakil during the last weekend of August to take part in the annual fair dedicated to this particular cheese, a great opportunity to bid for the best pieces, whose price can reach into the thousands of dollars.
Manchego is Spain’s most famous cheese in the international arena since it is part of the cultural and gastronomic heritage of the Iberian country. It is produced in Castile – La Mancha from the milk of Manchego sheep. It comes in cylindrical pieces with a hard waxed crust marked with the typical zigzag of the traditional esparto grass belt. When opened it shows ivory tones, with irregular, small eyes. The complexity of its flavor depends on the cure but must be discreetly acid, strong and tasty, more spicy in cured cheeses. Manchego cheese is mentioned in a number of classic works of Spanish literature, mainly in Cervantes‘s Don Quixote (Wines from La Mancha). Its label must read “Denominación de Origen Queso Manchego”.
Torta del Casar
Torta de Casar is made through traditional methods using only raw sheep´s milk from controlled farms, vegetable rennet and salt and must be aged for more than 60 days. Its crust is light, fine and not too hard, and its main feature is its creamy texture that sometimes makes the white-yellowish paste leak through the cracks on its crust. With characteristic aroma and intense, mature flavor, it easily melts in the mouth. It is a bit salty and slightly bitter due to the use of vegetable rennet from thistles. Torta del Casar has been produced in the region of Extremadura since the 13th century and has its own Protected Designation of Origin. ■