Cheese is an integral part of Spanish gastronomy. It goes perfectly with tapas, on its own or on a crusted bread with some olive oil. Of course, our hearts melt for it in various dishes. Finally, it is also a very popular way to conclude a meal, with a small glass of strong wine.
Queso is the Spanish word for cheese, and it is just as present in the various recipes of Spain as are bread and wine. The Spanish cheeses are made from cow, sheep or goat milk.
There is a Spanish cheese for every food, every wine and every occasion. Let us explore some of the best Spanish cheeses that you may find on our menu.
Manchego cheese is probably the best-known cheese from Spain. Manchego cheese originates from the province of La Mancha, in central Spain, made famous by fiction heroic figure Don Quixote by Cervantes, the most famous and best writer of Spain.
The milk for this cheese has to come only from the local manchega sheep race, giving it its Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Manchego cheese is made out of whole milk and yields a semi-firm cheese that is aged. Depending on the duration of the aging process, the Manchego cheese will be classified as:
- Fresco: “fresh” cheese about two weeks old.
- Semicurado: “semi-aged”, semi-firm, three weeks to four months of aging.
- Curado: “aged”, semi-firm, three to six months of aging.
- Viejo: “old”, semi-firm, one to two years of aging.
Because of its wide variety of texture and flavors due to aging, the Manchego is integrated into many Spanish recipes. Among similar non-Spanish cheeses you might know, we find the Monterey Jack and the Asiago cheeses.
The Mahón cheese, also known as Mahón-Menorca queso for its official PDO, originates from the Menorca island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is the little sister of the island of Mallorca where the tennis player Rafael Nadal comes from.
The Mahón cheese is made from cow milk, mostly, but not exclusively, from the Holstein Friesian race. It can be aged from two months to two years. During maturation, it is often rubbed and put in contact with olive oil and paprika, developing a unique taste.
Depending on the aging process of the Mahón cheese, the flavor of this firm cheese can vary from buttery to quite spicy.
The Idiazabal cheese comes from the Basque Country in the northeastern part of Spain. It is a sheep’s unpasteurized milk cheese from the Latxa and Carranza races with its own PDO.
The Idiazabal cheese is a very firm cheese with a strong nutty flavor. It is aged at least two months, up to eight months to obtain the richest palette of flavors.
It is usually smoked, although a few zones within the Basque Country do not smoke it. Smoked Idiazabal cheese is similar to the smoked Gouda cheese, which you might know better.
The Valdeón is a blue cheese originating from the specific valley of Valdeón, province of León, in northwestern Spain. It is produced only in eight little municipalities in this tiny Spanish valley.
It is made out of a mixture of goat milk and cow milk. It can be made out of raw milk or pasteurized milk. It will be aged for at least two months. The Valdeón cheese has a semi-soft texture offering a very sharp and creamy taste that is easily spreadable.
Valdeón cheese is known to be saltier than the famous Stilton blue cheese. Be careful, it is often marketed as Cabrales in the US. Cabrales is a similar but much sharper cheese from the surroundings of the Spanish Valdeón Valley.
As you see, the selection of Spanish cheeses is quite varied and is sure to meet everyone’s tastes, matching your food and wine selections.
Spanish cheeses like the blue Valdeón and the Manchego are part of many recipes present on Socarrat’s menu, best represented in the tapas and the salads. But we also offer cheese boards to enjoy different varieties at the same time. Come to try them out and discover your favorite queso!