Cheeses

A Spanish expression says that miel y queso saben a beso, honey and cheese taste like a kiss. What few people realize is how many cheese are produced in Spain. A catalogue of Spanish cheeses published by the Ministry of Agriculture lists dozens of different ones. They are made from ewes' milk, cows' milk, goats' milk, or any combination. They range from queso fresco, or smooth cottage cheese to the strong-tasting curados, well-aged cheeses.

If the local shop only stocks three or four of these, it's because many of them are still products of artesanía, handcrafted on such a small scale that they seldom reach markets beyond the immediate region. Supermarkets here have a range of cheeses as international as their clientele, with imported types as well as copies of other types which are manufactured in Spain.

Afuega el Pitu

The name means "choke a rooster", supposedly because to test the cheese's readiness, a piece was fed to the barnyard cock; if he gagged, the cheese was declared en su punto. Small, cone-shaped cheese, very dry in texture, pungent in aroma and flavour.

Burgos

Widely available and much appreciated. A soft but compact cheese of ewes' milk, round and completely white, with no rind. It is not fermented, but after forming in moulds, the cheeses are submerged in a brine for 24 hours.

Cabrales

Spain's indigenous Roquefort, a real gourmet cheese. Made from cows' milk, sometimes mixed with small quantities of sheep's and goats' milk. Also called picón, tresviso or cabraliego. The skin is dark grey, but the cheese is encased in leaves. The flesh is off-white veined with blue-green. The flavour is strong, more acidic than Roquefort.

Cádiz

Fresh, white goat cheese, full of ojos, tiny holes. Made in a number of localities of Cádiz province. Strong in flavour but pleasant.

Cervera

A fresh, unaged cheese made in Cervera, in Valencia, from sheep's milk with a little cows' milk. It is mushroom-shaped, with a semi-hard skin and smooth, white flesh.

Gallego

Also called Ulloa, this cheese is made in Galicia, of cows' milk. It has a mild flavour, is pale yellow inside with yellow skin in the shape of a slightly flattened ball.

Grazalema  

From the mountains of Cádiz. A ewes' milk cheese with large ojos, holes. It is marketed fresh, semi-cured and well-aged. Pleasant flavour, hard rind, pale yellow flesh with holes throughout.

León

Cows' milk cheese from mountain regions. Well-aged ones are crumbly and strong. Brown rind, yellow flesh.

Mahón

Made in the Balearic Islands, particularly Menorca, usually of cows' milk, though may include sheep's milk. It is consumed both fresh and aged, in which case it becomes a very hard cheese of strong aroma and flavour. Shape is usually a rounded square. It has amber, oily skin and pale yellow flesh.

Málaga

White goat cheese moulded in esparto forms, traditionally preserved in earthenware vats of oil.

Manchego

Originally a cheese handmade by shepherds, usually in small quantities, it is now produced industrially, not only in its native La Mancha and not only of ewes' milk. The cheese is a pale yellow colour with a hard, straw-coloured rind, or sometimes black. When still fresh, these cheeses are of a creamy, mild consistency. Semi-cured ones have a little bite, are quite well-rounded and smooth. Manchego cheese aged more than three months is dry and should splinter when cut.

Oropesa

Sheep's milk cheese similar to Manchego, made in Puente del Arzobispo and Talavera de la Reina, in Toledo. The cheese is yellow, full of tiny holes and strong in flavour.

Pedroches

A sheep's milk cheese made in the province of Córdoba. Light yellow outside and in, with a strong aroma and a salty, tangy flavour. Keeps well for month, longer if conserved in oil.

Puzol

An unfermented ewes' milk cheese from the Valencia area, similar to Burgos cheese. A white, fresh cheese, very mild, meant to be eaten fresh, with a conical indentation left from the mould.

San Simón

Made in San Simón de la Cuesta, in Lugo, of cows' milk. Looks like a plump, amber-coloured pear, shiny on the outside from exuded oil. The cheese is smoked over herbs and oak wood and keeps well up to two years. The creamy inside has a mild, smoky flavour with a pleasant tang.

Serena

Sheep's milk cheese from Badajoz. One of the few cheeses made with a vegetable coagulant, the pistil of the wild cardoon flower, instead of the more usual animal rennet. Both semi-cured and cured, it is mild with a slight bite. Golden skinned, pale curd.

Tetilla

Named for its shape, a rounded cone which reminds of a breast. Made of cows' milk in the province of Pontevedra. Yellow on the outside, paler on the inside, smooth consistency, salty, tangy flavour.

Villalón

Also called pata de mulo, mule's foot, for its shape, a long cylinder. A very bland, white cheese, made from sheep's milk, often recommended for delicate stomachs. It is sold con sal and sin sal, with or without salt.