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The Fine Cheeses of Spain

"Spain has a wide range of cheeses, discover the best ones!"

Sheep, cows, and goats are grazing on myriad plateaus and valleys of mountainous Spain producing a broad variety of cheeses -- many of which may be a new experience for your palate. The goats bring us a bone-white cheese that is marinated in wine, or fashioned into soft goat cheese buttons with herbs.

Mahón Cheese

From the sunny Balearic Island of Minorca comes Mahón, a wonderfully creamy combination of cream form three distinct strains of cows. The rounded orange-rinded cheese is reminiscent of Dutch Gouda or Edam.

Mahón is a traditional semi-soft cheese, produced from cow's milk on Minorca, the outermost of the three Balearic Islands. The city of Mahón is the major town on this small agricultural island.

Traditionally, to produce Mahón cheese, the curd is placed in the center of a cloth. The corners of the cloth are then knotted and twisted together, which gives the cheese its typical "cushion" shape. It then matures in the cloth for several days. The flavor is smooth, yet buttery sharp, slightly salty with a marvelous creamy, nutty aroma.

Mahón cheese is young, when the texture is smooth and supple and the aroma is sweet and fruity. This is a versatile cheese -- nice as a tapa with olives and wine or beer. You can eat it the traditional way, sliced, then sprinkled with olive oil, black pepper, and tarragon. It is also a great treat when it is melted on toast. Keep your young Mahón in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap or waxed paper.

Tetilla Cheese

On the northwest coast, far from the Mediterranean island of Minorca, milk from the cows of Celtic Galicia are made into traditional smoked San Simón tetillas.

The region of Galicia is almost a country of its own -- green and lush with rugged mountains and ocean water lapping into peaceful fjords. The people are Celts, complete with bagpipes.

Their cheeses are as unique as they are. Before the days of refrigeration, many fresh cheeses were lightly smoked over a hard wood fire to preserve them. This is essentially how San Simón came to be -- a tetilla-type cow's milk cheese, which has been left to briefly cure after being lightly smoked for two weeks. Due to its shape, San Simón is sometimes called a Bufone or a dunce cap. Use San Simón as you might an Edam or Gouda cheese -- either sliced cold as a snack, or melted - as a complement to many dishes. Its firm chestnut-orange exterior protects a soft, flavorful white center.


High in the glorious coastal mountains of Cantabria artisan make the complex artisanal Cabrales -- the king of blue cheeses. The flavorful blue mold in this cheese evolves naturally from the walls of the caves in which the cheeses are stored for curing -- unlike its cousins in Denmark and France where the mold is introduced artificially by injection.

Cabrales is predominately made of cow's milk, although often blended with that of goat and sheep's milk according to a secret formula whose origin is lost in time. It is delightful accompanied by brandy or sherry, or crumbled on a crisp green salad. Of course makes a remarkably bright "blue cheese" dressing.


Sheep's milk makes the dominant cheeses, due to centuries of vast herds of sheep covering much of Spain. The most familiar cheese is Manchego, produced in La Mancha, the central meseta of Spain -- the land of windmills and Don Quijote. It is due south of Toledo. Mild or tangy, semi-cured or pasteurized - we have just the Manchego you are searching for.

Traditionally, manchego is cut in wedges and served with olives and thin slices of Serrano ham or membrillo quince preserve. It is a classic flavor of Spain. Their entire production process is supervised by the Council of the Denomination of Origin of Manchego Cheese.

A word of caution - there are many cheeses in the marketplace called "manchego," just as there are many cheeses called "cheddar." Only the cheese bearing the "Denomination of Origin" sticker is the real thing - and there is a world of difference.

See also...

Sliced Jamon - Artisan Aged Manchego Combo

1/2 lb Jamón + 2 lb Cheese

Another incarnation of our classic tapa combo.

First, imported Jamón Serrano: cured mountain ham sliced paper thin by hand and individually leaved for your easy use. The zip-lock envelope keeps it fresh for more than one occasion.

As is often the case at all tapas bars, the slices of jamón are paired with artisan sheep's milk cheese from La Mancha -- home of Don Quijote.

Our Villajos semi-cured Manchego is truly an artisan raw sheep's milk cheese. Since 1996, three brothers have fashioned this unique Manchego. Despite its short existence, Villajos "curado" earned First Prize in 2002 and one Accésit in 2003 at the Gran Selección de Castilla La Mancha contest. In fact, it won the prize for the best Manchego in La Mancha. It has a full flavor with a touch of sharpness. Slice and serve with olives and sliced Serrano ham for the authentic flavor of Spain.

Spanish Cheese Sampler

We have for you a wonderful sampler of Spanish cheeses:

Semi-cured Sheep's Milk Cheese - This cheese is much like Manchego, smooth and full of flavor.

Cured Sheep's Milk Cheese - This sheep's milk cheese is aged for a firm bite and sharp flavor.

Mahón - produced in Menorca. It is a traditional creamery cheese produced from cow's milk. It is smooth, with a sweet and fruity aroma.

Cabra - a cured goats milk cheese, with a creamy rich flavor.

Tetilla - this soft cows milk cheese from Galicia is super creamy and mild.

What a fine way to introduce yourself to traditional Spanish cheeses, and at the same time have an instant tapa for unexpected guests.

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