Cow's milk, sheep's milk, goat's milk... milder, more intense... It's a whole experience to discover the immense variety of Spanish cheeses
Why is a cheese board perfect for summer? Because it's the time of year when we're more relaxed and want to have on hand simple but delicious foods, of the highest quality, to enjoy fully. "A cheese board is a great way to travel through Spain without leaving your home, sampling flavors that highlight the country's enormous wealth of cheese," explains Isabel Fernandez, master cheesemaker at Poncelet, a leading cheese store in Madrid.
Fernández's two proposals are prepared with "cheeses that are easy to cut, designed for hot weather, and are a little bit 'refreshing,' mixing creamy and hard textures. And we always finish with something that's more intense, though not excessive."
From Galicia's Arzúa de Ulloa cheese to the Asturian cheese La Peral
Fernández suggests starting the first board with Arzúa de Ulloa cheese (from Galicia), made from cow's milk. "It's soft and lactic, and can even be eaten with quince jelly so that it tastes fresher." The second stop is Murcia, with a semi-cured Murcian goat's milk cheese that's macerated in red wine. "It's very easy to eat, very smooth in the mouth, and the wine, which is from Jumilla DO, gives it an aromatic touch."
The third is a cured goat cheese from Castile-León. "Goat's milk cheeses are perfect for the summer because they have less fat and are easier to digest," she explains. It's called pata de mulo "because of its shape, which is reminiscent of the animal's leg." Next up is a sheep's milk cheese with rosemary from Castile-La Mancha in which "the rosemary adds a very aromatic and summery touch that's very noticeable in the mouth."
The Catalan cheese Puigpedros is next. "It's a cheese made from raw cow's milk that has a washed rind, although it's not excessively strong. It brings us both village and countryside aromas." The final touch is an Asturian blue cheese called La Peral. "It's made with cow's milk and has a spicy tough that's rather gentle." The perfect ending.
Cheeses from Madrid, the Balearic Islands…
The second board starts with a cheese from Madrid, a region that's still not very strong in this niche but is making a name for itself, thanks to the hard work of its producers. "It's made with raw goat's milk and has a lot of flavor. Its paste is very clean and the rind gives it notes of earth and fungus." The second is a Galician cheese, San Simón da Costa, which is smoked with birchwood. "Made with cow's milk, it's very tender and has great elasticity.
Next comes a semi-cured Mahón cheese from Menorca made with raw cow's milk and which "has a touch of salt due to the island's sea currents, as well as a slight crunch." Then we have a cured cheese made from raw sheep's milk from Zamora (Castile-León). It's "quite intense and powerful but isn't overly persistent in the mouth, so you can keep eating it."
The fifth cheese on the board is called Turbulencia, from Madrid. It's made from sheep's milk and is "very creamy and very aromatic." It's quite the discovery, and it paves the way for the final cheese, Gamonedo from Asturias. "This is a classic, and it's much drier than the others mentioned here. Its smokiness stands out and, as it's cured in caves, those characteristic touches of humidity are perfectly noticeable."
According to Fernández, both boards are perfect for a summer lunch or dinner, the latter being "a bit more powerful" and ideal for those who are looking for pairings with fuller-bodied wines. Both can be paired with sparkling, white, and sweet wines from different regions in Spain. "The wines should be paired in that order, because what we're looking for is to clean and refresh the palate before moving on to the next cheese," she says. Two sensational tours of Spanish cheeses designed to be enjoyed by everyone, from those who are just starting to discover this unique world to connoisseurs looking to go one step further with new discoveries.
Author: Javier Sánchez/ @ICEX