“El Queso y El Vino Sabe a Beso”
If you’re a cheese lover, then Spain can easily satisfy your craving for a cheese with unmistakable expression of “terroir” of the D.O. (Dominación de Orígin) of the cheese based on the type of milk, land, and climate. Just like a wine can express “terroir” (how a wine tastes because of the combination of the grape, soil it’s grow in and the region’s weather) a cheese can too. Start to experiment with different styles of cheeses made from the milk of goats, sheep, and cows. Then try cheeses from the array of D.O.s that certifies their authenticity. Finally, pair them with a great Spanish wine and discover for yourself magic on your palette. If you already know the name of the cheese you will find an abbreviated list of cheeses most commonly found in the US.
Cheeses commonly found in US
Here you will find an abbreviated list of Spanish cheeses that can currently be found in the US.
Arzua Ulloa – Galicia – pasteurized cow’s milk
Known locally as Queixo do País, or country cheese, the most popular cheese in Galicia. Brought into the U.S. by Murray’s Cheese through exporter and Spanish cheese expert Enric Canut.
Aged over 60 days. A double cream style whole, pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from near the Ulla River in Galacia, similar in taste and style to Tetilla. The lactic, marshmellowy paste has a mild flavor with the pronounced taste of milk and cream. Similar in appearance to a very young Torta del Casar, bound in a strip of cotton to hold its shape, Arzua Ulloa is an ideal starter on the cheese plate. It has a sweet lactic flavor that’s low in acidity and therefore very mild.
Garrotxa “La Bauma” – Cataluña – Pasteurized goat’s milk
An artisanal semi-hard cheese made by Tony Chueca in the foothills of the Pyrenees. A relative newcomer to the world of Spanish cheeses. Elephant-gray, velvety rind, with a moist and cakey interior. Mild, sweet, and lightly acidic; judiciously salted, buttery, and creamy, with aromas of hazelnuts and fresh goat’s milk. Looking old before its time, this elephant-gray rinded semi-firm is aged only 3 to 4 weeks when it reaches its semi-firm peak. (That rind is reminiscent of the volcanic ash in the soil that provides such unique pasturage.) This artisanal Garrotxa is exceptional, redolent of damp caves and tasting of wet wood– spruce and pine, as though it were aged with bark. The interior is moist and cakey
with a looooonnnggg zinging finish.
Ibores – Extremadura – Raw goat’s milk
An artisanal cheese from the southwestern Spanish region of Extremadura; specifically from the mountainous zone known as Los Ibores, northeast of Cáceres. Made from the milk of the Mountain Verata and Retinta breeds of goat, Ibores may be rubbed with a mixture of olive oil and sweet pimentón (paprika) during a minimum aging of three months. A pimentón-free version, called “Capribor,” has won the artisanal goat cheese category of the Spanish Cheese Awards in 1995, 1999, 2001, and 2002.
Grazalema – Cadiz – Sheep and Goat Pasteurized Milk
Nicknamed “Grandaddy,” though aged for only 4 months. A blend of pasteurized sheep and goat milk; the latter lends a distinct sweetness that contributes to the strong fruit flavors. At first there are hints of ripe pears, but in the mouth and on the finish, heavy, sweet nectarines. With no acidity, the rich, buttery citrus is reminiscent of English flavored chocolates ala Whack-an-Orange.
Pata de Mulo – Castilla y Leon – Raw Sheep Milk
The cylindrical shape recalls the better known, but relatively new, cheese of Leon:Queso del Tietar (Monte Enebro). Pata de Mulo, meaning leg of the mule, is slowly being resurrected as a traditional, raw sheep milk cheese. Aged for 3-4 months, the paste is firm, but beautifully supple with butterfat. The taste is gentle, almost sweet, with a round, fruity linger.
De la Serena – Extremadura – Sheeps Milk
D.O. is deep in Extremadura, on the outskirts of the noble city of Cáceres this unique cheese has been made for centuries. La Serena is made from the milk of Merino sheep that graze on the forbidding slate and granite soil. Thistle rennet is added to the raw ewe’s milk in order to give the cheese a particular piquant taste. Each buttery, full-flavored saucer shaped cheese is aged 3-4 months and becomes progressively creamier as it ripens within its warm brown crust. This unusual specimen is in season during the winter months, when aging conditions were traditionally humid and cool; the flavor is delicate: lactic, floral qualities with in the unctuous paste. Good spooned from it top, or spread on toasted bread with a glass of young Albariño wine from Galicia, or a solid red.
Idiazabal – Navarra – Raw Sheep Milk
A D.O. (Denominación de Orígen) cheese, Idiazabal is protected by government standards ensuring quality and specifying regional production.
Made only with the raw milk of the Laxta and Carranza sheep, Idiazabal is made both smoked and unsmoked, though the unsmoked variety is never seen in the
United States. Murray’s will be importing it for the first time in November of 2003. Made by dozens of tiny producers, unsmoked Idiazabal is traditionally made with 100% lamb rennet, imparting a meaty, gamy flavor to the cheese. The old-timers call it “hot.” The wheels are aged anywhere from two to ten months. Compact and slightly piquant, this cheese has assertive smoky aroma and flavor with a pleasant butteriness on the finish. Ubiquitous in northern Spain as a queso de tapeo (cheese served as a tapa) in cider bars and txacoliterías (bars that feature the light, spritzy white wine, Txacoli).
Roncal – Navarra – Raw Sheep’s Milk
A raw sheep’s milk cheese made in the Roncal valley of Navarre Robust; slightly piquant, not at all salty, very buttery. New developments in cheesemaking technology have undoubtedly smoothed out some of the rough edges this potent, buttery, and savory cheese once possessed.
If you want to try some pairings on your own, we love these stores for their authentic selection of Spanish gourmet items: www.murrayscheese.com www.fairwaymarket.com www.despanabrandfoods.com www.tienda.com www.cheesefromspain.com
Where to find Spanish Cheeses in NYC:Murray’s Cheese Shoppe, 257 Bleecker Street Fairway Market, 2127 Broadway or 2328 12th Avenue