Manchego Cheese

Manchego is a delicious Spanish hard cheese made of sheep’s milk. Manchego cheese is only made in the La Mancha region of Spain – it’s the only place in the world where real Manchego can be made. There are also a few other conditions that make up the unique fingerprint of real Manchego cheese.

One of these specifics is the main ingredient – it’s not a cow’s milk like a lovely Brie de Meaux, or a goat’s milk cheese like the neighbouring Catalan Mató – Manchego is a sheep’s milk cheese. And it’s been like that for a long time; Manchego has been made for thousands of years on the Iberian peninsula.

The Manchega’s grazing on the local native wildlife and herbs are what gives Manchego its classic flavour, and means that it’s impossible to make it properly away from that area.

Sheep’s milk is rarely used for drinking these days, but it is used in making some other great cheeses:

Feta cheese from Greece

Roquefort cheese from France

Pecorino Romano and Ricotta cheeses from Italy

It works well for cheese because sheep’s milk has more fat, more protein and generally more solids and less water than cow’s or goat’s milk,  but it also contains more lactose, so unfortunately it’s not an option for the lactose intolerant!

As with any of the great cheeses, the maturation and ageing of Manchego has big implications for the flavour.

In order to qualify as real Manchego cheese, it must be aged for more than two months in natural caves in Spain’s La Mancha region.

Two months is enough time to get a bit of flavour into the cheese, but that silky sheep’s milk has much more to offer.

Pulling the cheese out of the cave after between three and six months gives you a Manchego Curado. The cheese is about halfway to being completely solid – semi-cured – the taste is mild, not over-powering.

However, if you’re prepared to wait a little longer for your cheese, you end up with a different beast. Restrain yourself for a year before opening the cave and you’ll find the wonderful Manchego Viejo. The flavour has increased with a sharp edge to it. The cheese is ready, shaved or grated, or eaten on its own.

Last updated Sunday 21st June 2015                                                                                © S W Ghost 2015