Can You Say "Queso"? - Some Cheeses of Spain

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One of our favorite foods from Spain is cheese, or as we say when we order there..."queso" (KAY-so). Since most of Spain is dry and mountainous, most Spanish cheeses are made from the milk of the sheep and goats that can handle the scrubby provender and rugged terrain. The exceptions are in the northern foothills of the Pyrenees, the Atlantic coast ("green Spain") and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. This month, to go with our featured Spanish wines, we have chosen to highlight some of the various styles of cheese to be found in this cheese-loving nation. Pair any of these with a handful of olives and a glass of Spanish wine and you have a shepherd's lunch or foodie's snack.
 
Cabrales (Asturias) CabralesCabralesWe start in the north with a cheese that is a mixture of cow, sheep and goat milk from livestock raised in a small area of the Picos de Europa. The milk is blended and cooked, then curdled with rennet and the whey separated. After the initial curing period of around two weeks, the Cabrales is then aged a further two to five months in natural caves in the limestone mountains of the area. The cheeses are placed on wooden shelves known as talameras, where they are periodically turned and cleaned. Relative humidity in these caves is typically 90% and the temperature is a cool 7–13 °C (45–55 °F), conditions favoring the development of penicillium molds that produce blue-green veins throughout the cheese. This is a blue cheese lovers cheese. It is sharp and tangy with a long, salty finish. Try it with a fruity Spanish wine (white or red) or use it to really kick up your next mac 'n cheese.
 
Idiazabal
Also from the north is the smoked sheep's milk cheese with the hard-to-pronounce Basque name of Idiazabal (id-ee-ah-ZAH-ball). Link to its description from here.
 
Mahon (Menorca, Balearic Islands)
MahonMahonMenorca, one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean off the coast of Valencia, has rainfall.  Rainfall means grass.  And grass means cows.
Mahon is the cow's milk cheese from near the island town of the same name.  Though this cheese is aged in caves for around 10 months, it doesn't get the hard sharpness most aged cheeses attain.  Instead, it stays semi-soft and is a great melter.  Mahon's sweet and fruity but at times slightly salty taste is due in part to the sea salt content in the grasses the cows eat. The rind is orange in color due to the rind being rubbed with butter, or oil, and paprika. Try it as a grilled cheese sandwich or put a slice on top of your favorite burger.
 
Manchego
Perhaps the best known Spanish cheese is this sheep's milk variety from the hot plains of La Mancha.  We've always got this one in stock, and you can read about it here.

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