Cheese From Spain

Category: Spanish Cheese Guide

Murcia al Vino PDO

Pressed, washed, uncooked cheese made from Murcian goat´s milk and cured for a minimum of 45 days for large cheeses and 30 days for small ones. Macerated in red wine during ripening to give the rind the characteristic color and aroma.

Production area

Murcia.

Production process

Milk yield is high in Murcian goats, and many flocks, being milked just once a day and producing one kid a year, give over 600 kg of milk per lactation. The milk has average fat, protein and dry matter content, making it excellent for cheesemaking.

After manual or machine milking, the milk is filtered and soured using animal rennet or other authorized starters. This process takes place at 30-34ºC (86-96.8ºF) for 40-60 minutes.

The resulting curds are then cut until grains 6-8 mm (2-3”) in diameter are obtained. They are washed by extracting 15% of the whey and adding water, then heated to 3-4ºC (37-39ºF) above the souring temperature. The curds are then worked until a softish consistency.

They are packed into plain molds and pressed for 2-4 hours until the right pH is obtained. Salting is by immersion in brine at a maximum concentration of 20º Baumé for a maximum of 20 hours.

Finally, the large cheeses are ripened for a minimum of 45 days and the small ones for a minimum of 30 days. During this period they are macerated in Murcian red wine. The high skin-to-juice ratio of this wine gives it a high coloring power and tannin content as well as a strong floral aroma, all of which are passed on to the cheese.

Tasting notes

A pleasantly sharp aroma and unsalty flavor. The red wine in which the cheese is soaked during ripening gives a flowery aroma and a pleasant aftertaste with reminiscences of goat’s milk and cream. The texture is creamy and elastic.

Other notes

Cylindrical in shape, the height is 6-7 cm (2½ -3”) and the diameter 7-9 cm (3-3½”) in cheeses weighing 300-400 g (10-14 oz) and, in the larger ones weighing 1-2 kg (2.2-4-4 lb), the height is the same but the diameter is 12-18 cm (5-7”). The rind is smooth, very light and a characteristic wine color. The paste is dense, compact when cut, ivory-colored and may have a few small holes.

Sources

– Spanish Ministry of Agriculture
– Regulatory Council, Queso de Murcia and Queso de Murcia al Vino PDOs

Cabrales P.D.O.

Blue-veined cheese made essentially from whole, raw cow’s milk or from a mixture of two or three types — cow, sheep and goat’s milk. Ripening lasts for a minimum of two months and takes place in natural cave.

Production area

The production area is located in the east of the Principality of Asturias and comprises the villages in the municipality of Cabrales – Arangas, Arenas, Asiego, Berodia, Bulnes, Camarmeña, Canales, Carreña, Escobar, Inguanzo, La Molina, La Salce, Ortiguero, Pandiello, Puertas, Poo, Sotres and Tielve – and three in Peñamellera Alta – Oceño, Cáraves and Rozagás.

Production process

The milk is soured using natural rennet from the stomach of kids, or powdered rennet, in small quantities so that coagulation takes place slowly. The milk must be kept at 22-23ºC (71-73ºF) for at least one hour for the mixed lactic acid coagulation, which usually requires 2-3 hours.

The resulting curds are broken up carefully to rounded, even-sized pieces 1-2 cm (½-¾”) in diameter.

After draining off the whey, the curds are placed in cylindrical molds where they are left for 2-4 days, turning them a couple of times instead of pressing. The cheeses are then salted by sprinkling salt over the top, leaving them for 12 hours, then turning them and sprinkling them again. After a further 12 hours, they are turned out of the molds.

They are then left to air for about two weeks before taking them to natural caves for ripening. Caves are allotted to individuals or groups and, in many cases, the right to use them or parts of them, is passed down from generation to generation.

Relative humidity inside the caves is 90% and the temperature is 8-12ºC (46-53ºF). These conditions promote the natural development of Penicillium-type molds which give the cheese its greeny-blue patches and veins. There is therefore no need, as with most blue cheeses, to add Penicillium spores. For proper ripening, the cheese should remain on wooden shelves in the cave for 2-5 months, being turned and cleaned regularly.

The Regulations use to allow the cheese to be wrapped in sycamore maple leaves (Acer pseudoplatanus), but this practice has now been discontinued, and special, food-grade paper is now required, printed with the green leaves. Packaging is completed with the producer’s label and the PDO label bearing a red stripe between two green stripes, the logotype of the Regulatory Council and the serial number.

Tasting notes

A balanced flavor, varying in intensity depending on the type of milk used. It must not be overly salty, nor bitter nor intensely astringent. It has medium piquancy, especially when made from pure sheep´s or goat´s milk or mixtures. It has a pronounced, persistent aftertaste. The aroma is penetrating and intense, varying according to the type of milk used, with the most intense aroma coming from goat´s milk. The lactic family predominates although, since in this cheese the essential micro-organism is Penicillium, lipolytic activity leads to the liberation of very complex compounds. The smell is clean and pleasant, with a touch of piquancy and nuttiness reminiscent of hazelnut, almond, etc. The texture should be even throughout, with very fine, almost imperceptible graininess.

Other notes

The drums have a flat top and bottom which, in some cases, may be slightly concave. The sides are straight or slightly convex. The diameter and weight vary and the height is 7-15 cm (2¾-6”). The rind is natural, soft, thin, creamy and orangey-brown or grayish and there may be reddish or yellow patches caused by microbial growth. It is slimy to touch because of the microbes that develop on the outside of the cheese during ripening. The consistency of the paste varies from semi-soft to soft, depending on the length of ripening. When ripe, the paste is compact, with no eyes, medium-low stickiness and creamy. The ivory-white color may vary depending on the type of milk used but is the same throughout the paste. There are greeny-blue patches and veins caused by Penicillium molds which become darker in color during ripening but must never be black. The Penicillium should grow evenly throughout the paste.The percentage of fat over dry matter must not be below 45% and moisture must be a minimum of 30%.

Sources

– Spanish Ministry of Agriculture
– Regulatory Council, Cabrales PDO

Mahon-Menorca PDO

Pressed cheese made from whole cow´s milk from Friesian, Menorcan and/or Brown Swiss cows, occasionally with a maximum of 5% of sheep´s milk from the Menorcan breed of sheep. Ripened for a minimum of 21 days.

Production area

Island of Menorca (Balearic Islands).

Production process

The milk must be whole and clean, without any type of preservative and with a balance between fat and protein in line with the seasonal characteristics of the milk of the different breeds used so that the final fat content is never less than 38% of dry matter.

The artisan dairies use raw milk, fresh from the cow. The industrial plants are allowed to use milk that has been processed or preserved in some way. The right amount of animal rennet is used to ensure that coagulation takes place in a minimum of 30-40 minutes at a constant temperature of 30-34ºC (86-93ºF). This temperature must also be maintained during cutting and draining of the curds.The curds are cut to the size of a large pea and left to stand for about ten minutes before the whey is drained off.

The cheese is molded by hand, wrapped in a square cotton cloth, the fogasser, and hung from the four corners. It is then placed on a table, the whey is removed and the paste is manually pressed and tied. It is then pressed in a machine which leaves the mark of the folds of the cloth and the cords imprinted on the top.

Special molds can also be used to give the characteristic shape. Pressing lasts for about ten hours, after which the cheese is submerged in brine at saturation point for a maximum of 48 hours at 10-15ºC (50-59ºF). It is then aired in ventilated rooms for 3-4 days, when the surface flora begins to develop. It then remains in ripening chambers until ready for sale: 21-60 days for young cheeses, 60-150 days for semi-cured cheeses and over 150 days for cured cheeses.

During ripening, the cheese is regularly turned and cleaned, and the rind is rubbed with olive oil and pimentón (a Spanish type of paprika). This operation is repeated several times and prevents the rind from drying out, repels insects and gives the cheese its characteristic color and appearance.

Tasting notes

The flavor is generally mildly acidic. The young cheese is mild, the semi-cured has a slight flavor of butter and nuts, especially hazelnuts, and medium persistence in the mouth. The flavor of the cured cheese is complex and intense, with touches of aged wood, tanned leather or the ripening chamber. Its piquancy increases with maturity, and persistence in the mouth is long.

The cheese has lactic aromas, with a slight reminiscence of butter and a characteristic acidity, all of which increase during ripening.

The young cheese is soft and elastic, the semi-cured cheese is firmer and easy to cut, and the cured cheese has a firmer, harder, less elastic texture. When well-ripened, it may be crumbly or flaky when cut.

Other notes

The shape is a parallelepiped, with a square base and sides and rounded edges. The height is 5-9 cm (2-3½”), with a ratio of 2:3 between the side and the height for young cheeses, and 2:4 for semi-cured and cured cheeses. The weight is 1-4 kg (2.2-8.8 lb).

The rind is compact and greasy and not very well-developed in the young cheeses, white-to-yellowish in young cheeses, orange or light brown in the artisan semi-cured cheese, and brown in the cured product. The top of the artisan cheeses is marked by the folds of the cloth used to wrap the cheese during molding.

The paste is yellow-to-ivory in color, with a few irregular, more or less round holes, in varying sizes but never larger than a pea. The fat content may never be less than 38% of dry matter, and total dry matter must never be less than 50%.

Sources

– Spanish Ministry of Agriculture
– Regulatory Council, Mahon-Menorca PDO

San Simon da Costa PDO

Smoked cheese made from raw or pasteurized cow’s milk from the Rubia Gallega, Parda-Alpina and Friesian breeds and cross-breeds, with a minimum 30-day ripening period. It has a distinctive shape, like a large spinning top, with a flat base and a pointed tip.

Production area

The geographical area in which the milk is obtained and the cheese produced covers the Terra Chá region, which comprises the following municipal districts in the province of Lugo: Vilalba, Muras, Xermade, Abadín, Guitiriz, Begonte, Castro de Rei, Cospeito and A Pastoriza.

Production process

The cheese production processes consists of the following stages:

Coagulation: this is done using rennet, with special emphasis on recovering and using local stocks. The milk curdles at a temperature of between 31 and 33ºC for 30 to 40 minutes, except when raw milk is used, when these parameters are changed to 28-32ºC and 30-35 minutes.

Cutting: cutting is done so that the size of the curd granules is between 5 and 2 mm in diameter.

Molding: the curd is packed into molds of suitable shapes and sizes to produce cheeses that have the typical features of the certified product. Pressing: special presses are used and the cheeses stay in them for a set length of time, depending on the pressure applied and the size of the cheeses. To allow the cheese to release the whey and to ensure a smooth rind, the individual cheeses are wrapped in cotton cloths. Salting: the cheeses are immersed in a 14% to 17% concentrated salt solution for a maximum of 24 hours.

Ripening: The minimum ripening period is 45 days for the large format and 30 days for the small format counting from the end of the salting process. During the ripening period, the cheeses are turned and cleaned as required so they acquire their distinctive features.

Immersion in anti-mildew bath: This optional step consists of dipping the cheeses into a bath with olive oil or another authorized product to prevent mildew forming.

Smoking: this is done for the time required to give the cheese its distinctive color, avoiding direct contact with the flames at all times. The wood used is always birch with the bark stripped off.
To safeguard product quality and traceability, protected cheeses must normally be sold whole and in packaging authorized by the controlling body. However, this body can also allow the cheese to be sold in portions or to be cut into pieces at the point of sale.

Tasting notes

It has a typical aroma and flavor, with a smoky note from using birch wood. The cheese texture is fine, fatty, semi-hard, semi-elastic and dense; it has a creamy yellow color and cuts smoothly.

Other notes

The rind is smoked, hard and non-elastic, between 1 and 3 mm thick, a yellow-ochre color and a little greasy. It has a small number of rounded or irregular shaped ‘eyes’ in a variety of sizes, but usually smaller than half a pea.

Analytical characteristics:

Dry extract: minimum 55%
Fat: minimum 45% and maximum 60% of dry extract
pH: between 5.0 and 5.6

Formats:

Large format, weighing between 0.8 and 1.5 kg (1.7 / 3.3 lb) and with a height of between 13 and 18 cm (5.1 / 7.09 ins).
Small format, weighing between 0.4 and 0.8 kg (0.8 / 1.7 lb) and with a height of between 10 and 13 cm (3.9 / 5.1 ins).

Sources

– Spanish Ministry of Agriculture
– Regulatory Council, Queso San Simon da Costa PDO

Machengo PDO

Pressed cheese made from whole milk from Manchego sheep, and ripened for a minimum of 30 days for cheese weighing 1.5 kg or more, and 60 days for the remaining formats.

Production Area

The production area comprises 399 municipal districts in the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Toledo which make up La Mancha, in the Autonomous Community of Castile-La Mancha.
Production process

The fresh milk is placed in cooling tanks to bring down the temperature to 4ºC (39ºF). It must be free from colostrum and medications which might affect the production, ripening and storing of the cheese.

First, the milk is soured using animal rennet or other lactic starters authorized by the Regulatory Council. It is then heated to 28-32ºC (82-89ºF) for 30 to 60 minutes and kept at this temperature for 45-60 minutes. The resulting curds are cut into the size of rice grains.

The mixture is stirred and heated again to 40ºC (104ºF) to help drain off the whey. Then the curds are placed in cylindrical molds which imprint the standard ‘flower’ pattern on the top and bottom of the cheese and the typical plaiting marks on the sides.

Once the cheese has been molded, it is pressed to remove the whey from the interior, returned to the molds but this time the other way up and pressed again. It is then salted, either with dry sodium chloride or by immersing them in brine for a maximum of 48 hours.

Finally, the cheese is left to stand in the right humidity conditions for more water to drain out, then transferred to the ripening chambers under controlled temperature and moisture conditions. Ripening lasts for a minimum of 60 days (except for cheeses under 1.5 kg.) after molding, and during this period the cheese is turned and cleaned until it acquires the necessary characteristics.

Cheese covered by the Regulatory Council is identified with a numbered label bearing the PDO logo. On cheese weighing less than 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz), the top right-hand corner of the label is crossed by a blue stripe and, if the cheese is sold in plastic-wrapped portions, the stripe is green.

The underside of the cheese bears a numbered ‘casein’ label stating the term Manchego. This term must also appear on the commercial label, which must also state that the cheese has been made exclusively from Manchego sheep´s milk.
Tasting notes

A characteristic aroma and slightly sharp, intense flavor that becomes slightly piquant in well-ripened cheeses. The Manchego sheep´s milk gives a pleasant, unusual aftertaste. The texture is firm and compact.
Other notes

Cylindrical in shape with flat top and bottom. Maximum height is 12 cm (4¾”), maximum diameter 22 cm (8.6”), and weight may vary between 0.4 and 4 kg (0.8 – 8.8 lb).

The rind is hard and yellow. The sides are imprinted with plaiting marks from the molds, and the top and bottom bear the characteristic flower imprint. The color of the paste may vary from white to yellowish-ivory and it may be dotted with tiny eyes.

This cheese has the following physical and chemical characteristics:
– pH: 4.5 to 5.8
– Refraction index at 40º C: from 1.4530 to 1.4557
– Dry matter: minimum 55%
– Total protein over dry matter: minimum 30 %
– Fat in dry matter: minimum 50% – Sodium chloride: maximum 2.3 %

Sources:

– Spanish Ministry of Agriculture
– Regulatory Council, Queso Manchego PDO

Regulatory Council
Consejo Regulador de la DOP Queso Manchego
Avenida del Vino, s/n
13300 Valdepeñas (Ciudad Real)
Castilla-La Mancha
Tel: (+34) 926 322 666
Fax: (+ 34) 926 322 712
organizacion@quesomanchego.es
www.quesomanchego.es/