Manchego is the most popular cheese in Spain and has fans worldwide. This is as good as cheese gets, and the quality is always world class. Manchego is a delicacy, but one with astounding versatility — the cheese is not only delicious on its own, but in many food specialties!
Let’s talk about Manchego, the types of Manchego available, and, most importantly, how to recognize authentic Manchego. Cheese lovers and Spanish food enthusiasts rejoice because this is one tasty topic. Manchego is a premium cheese and Spain’s pride and joy. Learn all about Manchego with our quick guide.
What is Manchego?
Manchego is a traditional cheese from La Mancha, home to extensive flatlands and Quixote’s windmills. The cheese is protected by European law, and strict production and aging rules guarantee its quality.
All Manchego is made with sheep’s milk and pressed into 4.7-inch wheels. They can weigh 8.8 pounds! Still, what makes this firm and compact cheese unique is its aging. Producers age Manchego for between 2 months and 2 years to get flavorful, creamy cheese with a firm bite. Other than that, there isn’t much more to say about Manchego’s production — it’s a naturally made, artisan cheese made with milk, rennet and salt — no additives!
Types of DO Manchego and their Differences
There are several types of Manchego. Producers often use pasteurized sheep’s milk, but if they use raw milk, they can label their Manchego as “artisan” cheese! After that, the most significant classification has to do with the time spent in the aging chambers.
Fresco - Young or “fresh” Manchego aged for only two weeks.
Semicurado - “Semi-cured” cheese aged between 3 weeks and four months.
Curado - “Cured” Manchego aged 3-6 months.
Viejo- “Old” Manchego aged between 1-2 years. Sometimes labeled as Gran Reserva.
The longer the aging period, the firmer and more flavorful the cheese. Aged cheese is also more expensive to make and, therefore, pricier, but you can’t put a price on well-aged cheese — it’s delicious!
Manchego Cheese Rind FAQ
As Manchego ages in specialized cellars, it develops a firm rind. And although enjoying the cheese’s soft core is easy, the rind raises many questions — let’s answer a few.
What is Manchego’s rind made of?
Manchego is a natural cheese made with no additives, so the rind is just cheese, and it’s mostly made of casein (milk protein). In contact with air, the rind hardens and becomes a protective barrier.
What color is the rind in Manchego cheese?
Manchego’s rind is typically pale yellow with brown-greenish hints. If aged for extended periods, the rind can be darker. The rind also has a typical woven-like pattern caused by covers used to protect the cheese during maturation.
Can you eat Manchego rind?
The firm outer layer that forms around the cheese, or its rind, is edible but an acquired taste — not everyone enjoys its chewy texture. It’s worth considering that the rind protects the cheese from contaminants in the air, dust, bacteria, mold and yeast. And although Manchego ages in sanitized storage rooms, there’s always the risk of contamination.
Learn to Recognize Authentic Manchego!
Authentic Manchego comes from specific regions across La Mancha, and their origin is certified by a seal. The cheese is marked with the appellation’s logo and has a traceable serial number.
Reading the label carefully is paramount to ensure you are getting the real deal. Manchego lookalikes are pretty common in the market. Of course, when you taste authentic Manchego, you recognize it immediately!
Do you want to experience authentic Manchego? Try our Manchego Maese Miguel “Gran Reserva” or treat yourself to a Spanish Cheese Tasting Sampler and taste Manchego alongside other exciting Spanish cheeses.
At Le Gourmet Central, you can find all types of unique gourmet food including authentic Iberian cured ham from Spain, gourmet risottos and pasta from Italy, truffles specialties and so much more.
To find the best gourmet foods and gift baskets online, begin your search at legourmetcentral.com.