Sheep's milk cheeses from Spain
Sheep are the most authentic livestock in Spain. They mostly inhabit the Castilian plains in central Spain and the south-west, where there is plenty of pasture, especially during winter and spring. The best-known native breeds are Churro, Merino, Castellano and Manchego, all of which were traditionally reared for their wool, but today are mostly used for the production of cheese. Some of the most important Spanish cheeses are Manchego, Zamorano, Torta de la Serena and Torta del Casar, all of which are covered by Protected Denominations of Origin (PDO) status.
In the mountains of northern Spain in Basque Country and Navarre, there are two other types of ewes’ milk cheeses with PDO guarantees, Idiazabal and Roncal, both made from more unusual native breeds – Latxa and Carranzana (PDO Idiazabal) and Latxa and Rasa Aragonesa (PDO Roncal).
Northern Spanish cow's milk cheeses
The rainy, mountainous strip along the northern coast of Spain, separated from the rest of the peninsula by the Picos de Europa, Montes de Galicia and the Pyrenees, is a land of pastures and cultivated grasslands which provide fodder for more than 15 native cattle breeds, all of which are perfectly adapted to their natural surroundings.
There are many remote spots that are difficult to reach, and their geographical isolation has led to an extraordinary wealth of different types of cheeses. In the Principality of Asturias alone, there are more than twenty different varieties. Many of the cows’ milk cheeses in northern Spain are protected by PDO status, including Tetilla in Galicia, and L’Alt Urgell and La Cerdanya in Catalonia. On the island of Menorca, the northernmost of the Balearic Islands, a cows’ milk cheese known as Mahón-Menorca is also covered by a PDO.
Butter is another typical product in the north of Spain and some butters, like Mantequilla de Soria and those made in L’Alt Urgell and La Cerdanya, have PDO status.