I love cheese, all types and all forms. There’s so much variety in cheese, so many different flavors and textures. One cheese I really enjoy is Manchego, whether I am setting up a plate to complement some wine or if I’m just melting something over bread, this cheese delivers. Manchego is made out of sheep’s milk and it does leave a sheep’s milk aftertaste. That may sound unappetizing to the cheese newbie, but if you are in the know then you know that it just means this cheese is kick-ass. Manchego is aged for three months or longer, and is semi-firm with a rich golden color and small holes. It ranges from mild to sharp, depending on how long it is aged. This wonderful cheese is aged in natural caves for a period ranging from 3 to 6 months, which imparts a zesty and exuberant flavor to the cheese. Manchego’s flavor is very distinctive, slightly salty but not too strong. It is creamy with a slight piquancy, and leaves the characteristic aftertaste of sheep’s milk; I want to say that is tastes like feta cheese but it is nowhere near as salty and the texture is chewier. It has a savory flavor in any incarnation, but I find that the older it is the sharper it is. Manchego is available in three different states of maturity: fresh (fresco), 3–6 months old (curado), or matured for one year (viejo).
This cheese is great and is pretty versatile in what you can do. You can eat on crackers as is, maybe with some red wine to chase it, preferably a Rioja wine. A traditional way to enjoy it in Spain is served on toasted bread that has been rubbed with garlic and tomato, then drizzled with olive oil. I’m partial to toasting it, but I really enjoy it fresh on a sandwich with some fresh ham as well. It’s a product that is protected in it’s origin, which is great because while it amps up the price, it really does ensure quality. You can pick up some Manchego almost anywhere now, most gourmet grocers carry it and you can find it in most supermarket delis.