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The Spanish Legacy of Food: The Romans and the Cheese

Cheese is the most specialised and developed by-product of milk and its discovery has been ascribed as a fortunate accident that occurred many thousand years ago. Camel and horse riding nomads discovered cheese when milk they were carrying became coagulated and henceforth the history of cheese began.

Its birth in Spain is mainly credited to the Romans, who came, saw, and left behind the legacy of sophisticated cheese making. It is part of a staple diet for many Europeans and the Spanish have evolved this Roman legacy into an art form.

Artisan cheese making is produced throughout many different regions of Spain and it is mainly produced using cow, sheep and goat's milk. it is then made simply delicious by using three major techniques: storage, process and maturation.

"Artisan cheeses are made predominantly by small producers employing traditional methods using milk from their own herd."

"Artisan cheeses are made predominantly by small producers employing traditional methods using milk from their own herd."

CowSheepGoat

Lower in total and saturated fat

Easier for the body to digest

Easier for the body to digest

Greater levels of vitamin B12 and folate

Some potential anti-carcinogenic properties

Due to its similarity to human milk, less likely to trigger an allergic reaction

Contains more total protein

Highest total of combined fat and protein

Contains more calcium and magnesium

Mahon Cheese

Mahon Cheese is made exclusively from cow's milk and is named after the port on the island of Menorca. The cattle here are bred to yield a high volume of milk which is used to make dairy products such as Mahon Cheese.

Two types of Mahon Cheese are made here, artesano and aged.

Young Mahon is less than three months old and to maintain its freshness needs to be wrapped airtight and refrigerated.

Aged Mahon is matured for longer. This makes it harden with age and is drier in texture and saltier than its junior counterpart .

Mahon is a versatile cheese and so therefore can be a wonderful cooking compliment with dishes containing pasta, potato, rice and vegetables.

As for a tipple, try beer with Young Mahon, and Rioja Reserva with the Aged Mahon.

The Artisan Craft of Mahon Cheese

Manchego Cheese

Manchego is made using milk from sheep that wander the region of La Mancha. La Mancha is a region that almost encompasses Madrid in the centre of Spain. The sheep graze on the hunting grounds of the fictitious famous knight errant, Don Quixote, who fought windmills, in the book written by Cervantes.

Manchego Cheese is collected and processed from the sheep using traditional artisan methods and matured in local caves from 60 days to 2 years.

A natural rind is formed during the maturation process. The mould that is used to shape the cheese is embossed with a pattern that replicates the ancient outline of the esparto grass baskets they were once made in.

The rind is then washed, coated in paraffin, then soaked in olive oil. This method makes the rind inedible but if the rind is left to the last, it will preserve and keep the cheese at its best.

To complete the PDO (Denominación de Origen Protegida) which indicates the quality and approval of the cheese regulating council - it then depicts the artwork of the aforesaid Don Quixote.

Manchego Cheese grates well so can be used to adorn food It can be eaten on its own, or with Spanish snacks called Tapas.

Official Manchego Cheese depicting Don Quixote artwork

Official Manchego Cheese depicting Don Quixote artwork

Garrotxa Cheese

Garrotxa Cheese is made from pasteurised goat's milk and nearly became extinct in the early 1980's. Fortunately local goat farmers worked together to restore its destiny and now its reputation is becoming renowned. The cheese is named after the county where it is produced in Catalonia, North Eastern Spain.

The goats which are from a Murciana breed graze a volcanic landscape,. Then their milk is collected and processed using artisan methods. Finally, it is matured in nearby caves to give it its distinctive flavour.

Garrotxa cheese is semi-soft and graces the Spanish table. it works well with bread, nuts and fruit but can also be served as a desert cheese.

A local white wine, such as Catalan Priorat or a fino or dry Spanish Sherry pairs well with Garrotxa Cheese.

Delicious Spanish Cheeses

Delicious Spanish Cheeses

There are many more delicious Spanish Cheeses than these tasters using an example from each of the the most popular animal milks. Investigate today and enjoy this integral part of the Spanish platter.

Comments

Sun-Girl from Nigeria on May 23, 2011:

Great article which is evenly shared.

DaveysRecipeRead on April 15, 2011:

Wow! Now that's what I call research. Excellent work!

Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on March 08, 2011:

Welcome to hubpages The Blagsmith and we look forward to your tips on travelling to Spain. If you'd like more info about hubbing visit the learning centre for tips and ideas. Enjoy being a part of this great writing community, cheers Marie, member of hubgreeters team.

Sweetsusieg from Michigan on March 08, 2011:

I agree with IzzyM - Terrific job! We love our cheese here at home! The sharper the better.

IzzyM from UK on March 08, 2011:

Nice job! You've taught me a lot about Spanish cheese that I really didn't know, so thanks!

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