Just like the wine, in Spain cheese production is taken very seriously. Which is good news, given that cheese and wine make a wonderful pairing. People don’t typically come to Catalonia in search of cheese, yet you will find here a fantastic range of both Spanish and Catalan artisan varieties. Barcelona seems to have a particularly keen eye for cheese, and you will find well stocked ‘formatgerias’ dotted all over the city. You can even find a fair selection in some supermarkets. Local street food markets are also a great place for cheese enthusiasts.
If you aren’t very clued up when it comes to cheeses, you may find it a bit overwhelming seeing the wide and wonderful selection on offer. So here is a little insight into the traditional Spanish and Catalan cheese delicacies.
Probably the most famous of the Spanish cheeses, Manchego can be found everywhere from the supermarkets to restaurants. Manchego cheese is made from sheep’s milk and produced in La Mancha region of Spain. It is characterised by its firm texture and rich, sharp, buttery taste. You will find several variations of Manchego cheese, with differences in colour, texture and taste, depending on the aging period. The semi-cured or cured Manchego is a good robust cheese perfect for snacking, you can often find it served with oil drizzled over it and cracked black pepper sprinkled on top. Manchego cheese aged for a year (‘viejo’) becomes crumbly in texture and acquires a sweeter taste.
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The very distinctively shaped Tetilla cheese is the most characteristic cheese from Galicia, northwestern Spain. Tetilla is actually Galician for “small breast”, which perfectly depicts the shape of the cheese. You can find Tetilla cheese all over Spain. The taste is buttery, creamy and mild yet bitter and tangy, making it very flavoursome. It goes very well with a glass of sherry, dry full-bodied and young white wines.
Mahon cheese is a soft white hard cheese, which comes from the Mediterranean island of Menorca and sold all over Spain. Characterised by its delicious sharp, milky and salty taste. It comes in mild, medium or mature variations. The more mature Mahon cheeses have a more powerful flavour.
It may surprise you to learn that Catalonia produces more than 150 kinds of artisan cheeses. It is also the region with the most cheese shops in Spain, making it the perfect place for cheese fanatics.
Tupi cheese is an ancient Catalan tradition that is still maintained – Tupi being the name for a clay jar where the cheese is stored. It is made from pasteurized cow, sheep or goat’s milk and cazalla (aniseed) liquor, which is fermented in the Tupi jar, giving it a very powerful, punchy and fruity flavour.
Mato de Montserrat is a very fresh and unsalted Catalan cheese, which is only a few days old. It is made from cow or goat. It is typically eaten as a dessert, topped with jam or honey.
Tou del Tillers cheese is produced in the town of Sort in the Lleida province. It is made from raw cow’s milk with a little salt, and has a consistency similar to Brie with a creamy centre.
The Pyrenees mountain region is home to a couple of traditional local cheeses. The Costa Negra is a powerful cheese with a complex mixture of sweet and sour tastes, and an elastic consistency. Drap Cheese, on the other hand, has a creamy and quite sweet flavour. It is made of raw cow’s milk and comes in two varieties, fresh without a rind and white with a yellow rind.
Alt Urgell-Cerdanya cheese is the first Catalan cheese to reach the level of having its own DO (Denomination or Origin) – the Alt Urgell-Cerdanya. Its texture is soft and creamy and the flavour is smooth and sweet.
Happy cheese exploring!