Coming from the La Mancha region of Spain, semisoft Manchego cheese is crafted from the milk of Manchega sheep. You can find aged, 57% fat Manchego cheese in specialty deli sections of many grocery stores, as well cheese shops. So, what is Manchego cheese, and why do we love it?
Allow me to be your guide as we get to know more about Manchego cheese.
What is Manchego Cheese?
This aged, semisoft cheese comes from the milk of Manchega sheep that graze on the aromatic herbs and wild grasses that grow throughout the La Mancha region of Spain, infusing their milk with a distinctive essence that sets Manchego apart from other cheeses.
What does manchego cheese taste like?
I find the taste of Manchego easy to love as it has this sweet and fruity flavor, which gives a marvelous first impression if you have never tried it before.
The delicious experience starts with a nutty sweetness and a hint of tanginess, then leads to a more complex and savory taste that lingers. Manchego cheese will have you asking for more as you savor every bite.
An aged Manchego cheese, however, will have more intense flavors, transforming the cheese into a true masterpiece. I will also discuss the Manchego cheese varieties, but let us first clarify whether the rind is safe for consumption.
Can you eat the manchego cheese rind?
The rind of Manchego cheese holds a certain allure, adding to its visual appeal and character. Now, here comes the good part—Yes, you certainly can eat the rind! In the traditional crafting of Manchego cheese, a step during the aging process involves delicately brushing the cheese wheel’s exterior with olive oil, rendering the rind entirely suitable for consumption.
It is also worth noting that particular versions of Manchego sport a slender, lustrous layer of wax applied atop the innate rind.
Types of Manchego Cheese
Manchego cheese comes in a variety of ages, each with its personality. As the cheese matures, its flavors intensify, offering a delightful spectrum of taste for your culinary explorations.
A Fresco Manchego is soft and creamy, with a mild flavor. This variety has only aged for two weeks. Here’s an example of a young Manchego from Murray’s that has been aged four months.
It’s firmer than Fresco yet still holds onto a certain creaminess. The flavor is more pronounced, offering a balance of nutty sweetness and a hint of tanginess; Semi-curado aged three weeks up to four months.
Now we’re getting into the aged classics. Curado Manchego has spent more time soaking in flavors, resulting in a firmer, crystalline texture and a bolder taste. The nutty, tangy flavors are more prominent, making each bite a new experience. Curado is aged three to six months.
With a crumbly texture and deeply intense flavors, it becomes a masterpiece. The nuttiness is rich, the tanginess is bold, and the experience is sublime. Viejo is aged one to two years.
How is manchego cheese made?
The making of Manchego cheese is a beautiful process. It all begins with the fresh milk of Manchega sheep, renowned for its high-fat content and distinct flavor.
After the milk is collected, it’s thickened and allowed to rest before being cut into curds. These curd slices are then gently pressed into molds, creating the recognizable round shape of the cheese with a textured, hatch-mark pattern on the outer layer.
When it is time to remove the cheese from the mold, it is transferred and soaked in a salty liquid called brine. This step makes the cheese taste better and gives it a nice texture. After this, the aging process takes center stage.
The cheese wheels get relocated to cool, humid caves, where they develop their unique character over time. The duration of aging influences the flavor and texture, ranging from the mild and creamy Fresco to the robust and crumbly Viejo.
As you may have imagined, crafting Manchego cheese is a centuries-old art—combining tradition with modern techniques.
What are some good pairings for manchego cheese?
There is much to look forward to when you are looking to pair Manchego cheese with complementary delights! This cheese’s versatility shines in its ability to harmonize with foods from olives to berries, a selection of soft and mild cheeses, snappy heirloom tomato slices, buttery crackers, and more.
The nutty and savory flavor of Manchego is paired perfectly with juicy fruits like pears and apples, as well as the sweet intensity of honey. Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, provide a delightful contrast. It also pairs well with cured meats like prosciutto and chorizo.
The cheese’s complexity and depth make it an ideal match for wines, enhancing the mood and making date nights sensational!
How long does manchego cheese last?
When you keep Manchego cheese sealed and untouched, it can last for months. Under the right conditions, it might even stretch past the expiration date indicated on the package. But I would still recommend following it just to be completely safe.
Thanks to its somewhat high-fat content, Manchego cheese can usually hold up for around six months in the refrigerator, even without any fancy preservatives.
On the other hand, if your Manchego cheese packaging is opened and exposed to air, it can go bad quicker. If you plan to save some for later, wrap it tightly with wax paper or foil before storing it in the refrigerator so it can last for several weeks up to a few months.
It is always paramount to check for any signs of spoilage if you again decide to use it for consumption.
What is the texture of manchego cheese like?
The texture of Manchego cheese evolves with age. A Fresco Manchego cheese has a creamy texture, while a Viejo has a crumbly texture.
Is Manchego cheese a melting cheese?
Manchego cheese does possess a delightful melting quality.
While it might not melt as fast as other varieties, it is still a delicious grating cheese that melts well. When exposed to gentle heat, its creamy character turns into a velvety partner that cozies to dishes like cheesy sauces, quesadillas, or gratins.
Can you freeze manchego cheese?
Yes, you can freeze Manchego cheese to extend its shelf life. However, freezing alters its texture and compromises its flavors. So, that is also something worth considering.
The cheese’s moisture content might change, leading to a less-than-optimal experience upon thawing. It is still best to indulge in Manchego while it’s fresh and at its peak.
How to tell when manchego cheese has gone bad?
Like any culinary treasure, Manchego cheese does not live forever. Here are some indications that your Manchego cheese has already gone bad:
- Mold growth that is colorful or fuzzy
- Sour aroma
- Significantly altered texture
If you are seeing or experiencing any of these, consider parting ways with a piece that has gone past its glory days.
The bottom line
There you have it! Manchego cheese can bring delicious flavors and feelings to your plate that only a cheese-lover can understand. Experimenting with various recipes is like a tasty game, whether you’re new to cooking or love food a lot. Remember the tips I gave you; I hope you had a blast reading more about what is Manchego cheese!