Sunday, August 31, 2008

Spanish Manchego

We have begun our quest for foods that pair beautifully with our Lot 06 Panthos, and with the help of an in-depth cheese feature in the September 30, 2008 Wine Spectator, we hit gold.

Molly was able to find a wheel of Spanish Manchego at Podesto’s Market & Deli in Stockton.

This wonderful cheese highlighted the nice berry flavors of Panthos and smoothed any lingering youthful edges of the wine. All we can say is that you have to try it. We’ll probably be looking for ways to throw Manchego into some recipes to come.

From Wikipedia:

“Manchego is probably Spain's most famous cheese. Produced in La Mancha, this cheese is made only from the whole milk of Manchega sheep. The rich, semi-firm product is aged in natural caves for generally 3 - 6 months, which imparts a zest and exuberant flavor. It is barrel-shaped and weighs about 2 kg (4 lb). It comes in a 25 cm (ten-inch) diameter wheel, 12 cm (five in) thick, with a herringbone design on the inedible rind caused by the surface of the press used in the manufacturing process. (This traditional embossed pattern comes from the time when the cheese was wrapped in sheets of woven esparto grass.)”

“Additionally, the cheese is pressed using small wooden boards that leave imprints of wheat-ear patterns on the top and bottom of the product, rendering a unique and earthy appearance. The color of the paste is white or light yellow and the rind is generally somewhere between light brown and dark grey. The taste depends on the maturity: mild, subtle, and fresh; or strong and full-bodied with a tangy farmhouse flavor.”

“The taste is very distinctive, slightly salty but not too strong. It is creamy with a slight piquancy, and with the characteristic aftertaste of sheep’s milk. Just like wine, Serrano ham and olive oil, Manchego cheese is protected by its DenominaciĆ³n de Origen. This controls its production, ensures the exclusive use of milk only from the Manchega sheep, and dictates an aging period (in natural caves) of a minimum of two months.”

“Manchego is available in three different states of maturity: fresh (fresco), 3-6 months old (curado), or matured for one year (viejo).”

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