Milk: Sheep, Pasteurized
Country: Spain, La Mancha (south of Madrid)
Accompaniment: Bolder reds
The unique shape of this traditional Spanish sheep’s milk cheese is a result of the fact that the nomadic families that traditionally would make these cheeses on their annual treck through the Spanish countryside, would be limited in what they could carry to make cheese with. In fact, the heaviest article would be salt. To separate the whey from the curds they would weave baskets from Esparto grass, with small wooden boards at the top and the bottom for putting pressure on the curds. This gives the cheese its unique shape.
Manchego received a DOP in 1985, which means that only cheese made in La Mancha with 100% milk from the Manchega sheep, can be called Manchego. All other Manchego type cheeses produced with different milk variations or in other parts of the country had to be renamed.
The cheese is firm and has a spread of small holes in it. The taste is nutty, complex and slightly tangy. The six month is the creamier of our Manchegos and it is much more ready than its older siblings to reveal its flavor pattern at first taste. It still has enough complexity to be a great snacking cheese, however.
A natural companion is quince paste or Membrillo.