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MANCHEGO – Cheese of the Month (April 2013)

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There were some requests to post the April Cheese of the Month a couple days early....I hope I am not stepping on Taleggio's toes.

Overview: Sheep milk cheese from Spain. Can be raw milk or pasteurized.

Reasons chosen: Mentioned in the cheese nomination thread; I like it and have never explored the aged versions; it is widely available and (hopefully) approachable enough for those new to cheese while offering enough depth for those who are already familiar to learn something new.

Potential topics: Do you like it?; raw vs. pasteurized versions; comparison of various stages of aging; recipes; pairings….I am sure there are many others!

Traditional pairings: quince paste, marcona almonds (have y’all tried the rosemary ones from TJs – they are so good, although probably not “traditional”!), fig cake, chorizo, roasted red peppers

Complimentary Wines - from the book What to Drink with What You Eat: Rioja (esp. with aged Manchego), Sherry (esp. with young), Cava (with young)

Description from Culture Magazine:
http://culturecheesemag.com/cheese-li...

http://culturecheesemag.com/node/1181

Unless otherwise noted, all the above information is sourced from various internet sites (Culture Magazine, Murray’s Cheese, etc), I will defer to the experts if any of it is incorrect.

I picked up a 3 month Manchego for $15.99/lb and plan to serve as our appetizer with quince paste and marcona almonds when we get to the Keys! So far, all the aged versions I have found are raw milk, but I will keep hunting.

Happy Cheese Hunting!
Emily

Previous Cheese of the Month Threads:
Taleggio – March 2013: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/892781

 
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  1. Well done, EmBrooks! I, too, like Manchego but have never done a serious study of it.

    Anyone in the Bay Area want to do a Manchego tasting? We could each bring a different one to compare and contrast. I would be willing to host if people are interested. Email me (email is in my profile).

    5 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      thanks for starting-EmBrooks
      I know nothing about the cheese. I need to start reading and tasting.

      1. re: jpr54_1

        I just returned from Whole Foods with
        Manchego Aged Raw Milk 19.99
        Mitica Manchego 3 month 11.99
        Manchego 12 month 18.99
        piece of the cheeses were approx 0.010 lb.

        In what order should I taste the cheeses?

        1. re: jpr54_1

          Wow, that's a great haul! I have no idea about tasting order....but I am sure one of the experts will weigh in!

          1. re: jpr54_1

            Generally you should taste cheese from mildest to strongest, and generally, the younger cheeses would be milder than aged and raw milk cheeses will be more complex than pasteurized. I'd personally taste this group:

            Mitica Manchego 3 month
            Manchego 12 month
            Manchego Aged Raw Milk

            Don't forget to let them come to room temperature first!

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Hi, Ruth & jpr54:
              I would need to double check which Raw manchego they purchase in Broward Cty, but in my neck of the woods, the Raw manchego is aged 6 months and would fit between the other two.
              In my experience, the raw manchego is not as radically different from the pasteurized varieties as say, a Romano

      2. Thank you for kicking April off early, Emily. Looking forward to learning a great deal from fellow Manchego loving hounds. Appreciate the inclusion of wine and food pairings in your OP!

        http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&am...
        photo images for reference

        1. Em,

          Fabulous job! I'm looking forward to my first Manchego.
          Just to clarify, one cheese per month, right?

          3 Replies
          1. re: ItalianNana

            I chose one for this month since it is a fairly broad category and widely available.

            I think there may be multiple choices in future months if the coordinator wants to explore a specific cheese that may be difficult to find or otherwise out of reach for many.

            1. re: EmBrooks

              It's a great choice, Em. I called a couple of places and it does indeed seem widely available. I love that you included a description of the various ages so I know what to expect or look for.

              1. re: ItalianNana

                I am glad you are excited to try it!

                Today I was able to find 6- and 12-month versions - so my cheese plate is complete. I am excited to start tasting!

          2. My wife just brought some home a week ago and it was lovely. We used a tiny bit of Major Grey Chutney instead of the quince paste on those Canadian Stoned Wheat Thin crackers. Yummy

            1. Manchego is one of my favorite firm cheeses. If you want to contribute to anti-male-chauvinism, you could try Womanchego, made at Cato Corner Farms right here in CT. Here's the description from their website:

              Womanchego
              Inspired by the classic Spanish sheep milk cheese Manchego, our cows' milk Womanchego is aged 3 to 4 months, making it more similar to a young Manchego than the aged version most commonly found in cheese shops. The flavor is medium mild and a touch sweet with hints of fruit and nut. Moister than its Spanish cousin, our Womanchego is delicious on sandwiches, with wine, or melted. On limited occasions we will offer our Wise Womanchego, aged for at least 9 months.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DonShirer

                Another stupid cute marketing trick.Obviously the women don't speak Spanish or know the history/derivation. I suspect the quality lives up to that

              2. I brought a wedge of manchego, a bag of raw almonds and a few blood oranges to a friend's house for a movie night, and EVERYBODY raved over my genius. It was kind of funny.

                If I'd've thought to pair it with a wine, they would have probably sacrificed small animals in my honor.

                Manchego is one of my favorite cheeses though.

                1. One of my favorites, but gosh it keeps getting more expensive. I enjoy the aged much more and it's ...what $25/lb or wrose now!

                  A few years ago I gave a 50th anniv. party for my parents. VERY conservative eaters for guests, but the little triangles of manchego w/ quince paste were gone before I could turn around. I had not made much because i didn't expect it to be a popular item. One of my Mom's friends told her "i have no idea what that is, but it's wonderful" You have to love a food so all-around delicious it pleases foodies and Olive Garden types alike!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: danna

                    Hi Danna,
                    I found 12-month manchego at Whole Foods yesterday for $18.99/lb. Not cheap, but a little better than $25/lb.

                    1. re: danna

                      I think it's that the flavors of manchego can be very complex, but they are mild and versatile at the same time. If I could only choose one cheese to keep on hand in my kitchen, it would probably be manchego.

                      1. re: danna

                        It's my 7-year-old niece's (current) favorite cheese.

                        And yes, like Ossau-Iraty, it's a real can't fail crowd pleaser. Interesting that they're both sheep's milk cheeses.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Love love Ossau! I've never had Manchego, do they taste similar?

                        2. re: danna

                          A while back I found a recipe here on CHOW for manchego & serrano ham on crostini w/ membrillo and a drizzle of minted olive oil - it was well-received by everyone at my party. Yumm, here is the link:

                          http://www.chow.com/recipes/10444-ser...

                        3. Pizza with figs, serrano ham, manchego, parmesan, fontina and buttered leeks. Inspired by Jospehine's in Grennsboro, NC. It is delicious.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: birch

                            A pizza after my own heart, wow.

                            1. re: birch

                              That sounds amazing. We do a lot of grilled pizza around here - this is on the list for fig season.

                              1. re: EmBrooks

                                Perhaps obvious, but this has good quality olive oil as a base, no tomato sauce. I believe they use mission figs.

                            2. One of favorite recipes is marinated Manchego in olive oil and herbs....just love it.

                              1. We get ours from Sorriso's in Astoria (Queens NYC) and we just gobble it down straight. Sometimes with some crackers or olives. A huge, all-time favorite of Mr. Rat.

                                1. http://www.chow.com/recipes/14278-bla...

                                  This cheese puff recipe from the CHOW archive uses Manchego to rave reviews.

                                  1. I also picked up a 3 month Manchego from the specialty market for $11.99/lb just enough to grate and top on individual personal pizzas for six kids at Easter.

                                    1. One of my favorite uses for Manchego that I often make for dinner parties...

                                      Obtain a good heritage pork tenderloin and stuff it with:

                                      Roasted red peppers
                                      Manchego cheese
                                      Roasted garlic
                                      Spanish (not Mexican!) chorizo
                                      Fresh herbs like thyme or basil

                                      Tie up the stuffed tenderloin and grill over hardwood coals.

                                      1. I just procured my first chunk of Manchego. After looking for it last night at the most likely local grocer to have it, I struck out. And then my brother reminded me of Trader Joe's, which is just a couple of miles away. Doh!! Why didn't I remember TJ's last month when looking for Taleggio?!?

                                        It was only $9.99/lb., pasteurized, aged six months.

                                        I first tried it with plain water crackers--to me, they are like a blank slate and don't compete with the favors of cheese. I liked the texture and the light saltiness of the cheese. Then I added some fig jam that I had on hand and oh my....how delicious. Even though fig jam is not on the typical recommended pairing lists, it was absolutely heavenly. I will be eating more today, I am certain!

                                        So glad to have tried a new cheese. I love it! Thanks EmBrooks!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: jlhinwa

                                          This sounds wonderful. In my opinion, few cheeses are not made better with a little bit of fig jam!

                                        2. To kick off April I put together a Manchego tasting plate - including:

                                          3 month ($15.99 from EarthFare)
                                          6 month ($16.99 from Whole Foods)
                                          12 month ($18.99 from Whole Foods)
                                          Served with quince paste & chorizo as bites alongside. All cheeses were pasteurized.

                                          While I would buy any of these again, the far and away taste test winner was the 6-month. I thought it had far more flavor and depth than the three month. While I liked the taste, the 12-month made my mouth sting/tingle (pecorino does this to me as well, does anyone know why??).

                                          I am planning to use the rest of the 12-month to make the smoked chicken, corn & manchego quiche from this month's Fine Cooking....will report on that when I make it!

                                          I hope everyone is enjoying some Manchego this month - I look forward to hearing about everyone's experiences!

                                           
                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: EmBrooks

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/297369

                                            I actually recall this CH thread about mouth reactions to food; including cheese. My doc said it was an enzyme reaction sometimes from dry, aged cheese.

                                            1. re: EmBrooks

                                              Sounds like a good sampling. So we all may compare and contrast what we have tasted, which producer/producers made the three specific versions you mention?

                                              1. re: Fowler

                                                Great question....and I don't know the answer because I threw away the labels. Next time I am back at either store, I will make a note of the producers and report back.

                                                1. re: Fowler

                                                  The 3-month is El Greco brand. Will report back on the other 2 when I get to Whole Foods.

                                              2. One of my favorite Manchego appetizers:

                                                Remove the pits from some Medjool dates. Stuff the cavity with a piece of Manchego cheese. Wrap the stuffed dates with pancetta and bake until the pancetta is crisp.

                                                It has that interesting moderately sweet/salty combo. They work well for a party because just about everyone seems to love them and they can be prepared well in advance.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Fowler

                                                  sounds delicious

                                                  what age cheese did u use?

                                                  1. re: jpr54_1

                                                    I usually purchase the 6 month for this appetizer. In this specific application, I do not see the value (at least for me) in spending significantly more for the 12 month. I save the 12 for other things.

                                                2. Manchego is one of my favorite cheeses. Love the complementary salty mixed in with the sweetness of quince paste or fig jams.

                                                  I made Manchego Crisps based on this recipe several years ago for a dinner party - they were very well received. IIRC, they were laid across the top of a bowl of butternut squash and apple soup, which provided the sweet to the crisps' saltiness. (I cut back on the amount of chili powder, as I didn't want them overly spicy.)

                                                  http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/...

                                                  1. I went to WF today and tried a 6-month Manchego. I was underwhelmed, and didn't buy any. I'm going to try it again next time I go shopping, maybe the 12-month.

                                                    1. Just ran across this photo I took 2 years ago at an event at San Francisco MOMA. Befitting the environs, this was one of the artfully arranged things I've been served on a paper plate. A colorful assemblage of pickles made by Hapa Ramen accompanied by pancetta dust, Manchego foam, and brightened with daikon sprouts.

                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                                      1. Dave MP brought two aged Manchegos to one of our CHOW meetings today, both purchased at Whole Foods: 6-month Artequeso and 12-month El Trigal.

                                                        I was underwhelmed by both, but I also didn't really know what to expect from Manchego. One person at the meeting commented that it reminded them of Parmesan, which is true: it's kind of salty, and it's a hard, aged cheese. The 12-month also struck me as buttery.

                                                        After reading this thread I see that this cheese is not necessarily something to nibble on its own. The idea of pairing it with fig jam actually makes my mouth water a little, and the mild nature of these Manchegos would make them perfect pairables for stronger flavors mentioned throughout this thread.

                                                        So I'd say a great cheese to serve as a base for pairing with bolder flavors. And the rind on the El Trigal caught my eye just in terms of visual presentation. According to Murray's, the style of the rind is a tribute to the grass baskets formerly used to form the cheese:

                                                        http://www.murrayscheese.com/manchego...

                                                        This isn't a cheese I'd probably seek out again though. I enjoyed the Taleggio from last month way more.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: DeborahL

                                                          Thanks for noting the producers of the examples you tried.

                                                        2. I recall tasting Manchego for the first time at a Rioja wine event in San Francisco about a dozen years ago as part of my intro to Spanish gastronomy. An aged type, somewhat brittle and piquant, served with membrillo (also my first encounter) on bread as a tapa and so complementary to the pimenton of chorizo. I'd run across it a couple times a year as Spanish food became more popular as a party and dinner theme out here. But with popularity and more ready availability, the examples of the cheese became blander and far less interesting. It's not one I've bought for myself in recent years.

                                                          For May's ChOTM, I've been keeping an eye out for a Manchego Artesano DOP, a designation for the manchego cheeses still made in the traditional style (see photo of seal of origin). I finally found one at the cheese counter at Star Market in Salinas. It's Don Lorenzo Manchego Artesano Curado, made with raw milk and aged 8 months, $18.99/lb.
                                                          http://www.spanish-cheese.com/w1s11/p...

                                                          http://www.laespanolameats.com/mm5/me...

                                                          The texture strikes that happy medium between firm waxy smoothness at the heart of the round giving way to more crystalline and brittle saltiness around the drier rind edge. Slightly gamey, mostly buttery in flavor with herbal notes of thyme and rosemary, and a piquancy that hints at spicy Spanish pimenton. Where this cheese shows its breed is the much longer finish than run-of-the-mill manchego. I liked this one, eating it just plain, and it's been some time since I could say that about Manchego.

                                                           
                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            I'll just note that my dog, Kelpie, also participated in the CoTM -- she enjoyed to wedge of Manchego my niece knocked on the floor very much!

                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                              "But with popularity and more ready availability, the examples of the cheese became blander and far less interesting."

                                                              That is the exact same thing I was thinking when someone upthread said they were tasting it at a gathering and one of the people said that Manchego reminded them of Parmesan. The small production, higher grade, classic Manchego would not remind one of Parmesan.

                                                              1. re: Fowler

                                                                Yeah, I have to say I was underwhelmed by the two Manchegos I bought (a four-month that was totally without character and a 12-month that was only slightly better).

                                                                When I want a cheese in that style, I'm going back to Zamorano: http://www.artisanalcheese.com/Zamora...

                                                            2. Wondering if anyone tried Manchego Tierna this month, aged < 15 days?
                                                              http://esgourmet.com/17-73-thickbox/q...

                                                              I saw some at Big John's cheese shop in Healdsburg but didn't buy it, as there were no staff available to let me sample it. Quite pale, ivory white, almost looked like ricotta salata.

                                                              1. Happened to pass near a TJ's recently coming back from a meeting, and of course had to stock up. Saw some Spanish Manchego in their cooler and tried it. Okay, and not very expensive, but didn't have the bite of the kind I usually get at a cheese store.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: DonShirer

                                                                  They had that "aged" manchego out for sampling in my local TJ's this weekend. I tried it, and the woman offering the samples was doing a full-court press on selling it, but I agree - didn't have near the oomph that manchego should have. I passed.

                                                                2. If you like Manchego, you might also try Campo de Montalban, from LaMancha, Spain. It is quite similar but is made from a mixture of cow, goat and sheep milk instead of just sheep milk. It was also less inexpensive.

                                                                  1. Can anyone comment on the flavor profile of Manchego? I'd love to try it but have no idea what to expect.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                      Most cheesemongers will give you a taste, fieldhawk.

                                                                      And from the original post that started the thread, a description link:

                                                                      http://culturecheesemag.com/node/1181

                                                                    2. Well, I finally tried Manchego and really enjoyed it. I am planning to try a few more but my initial taste was El Trigal Manchego aged 8 months from Wegmans. I enjoyed the wonderful flavor that I love in sheep's milk cheeses, although it had more bite than I expected. I'm not sure if it's considered Manchego but I also tried the Cordobes at Whole Foods which was listed as a milder cousin of Manchego which I think I enjoyed a bit more.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        So much of cheese's flavor is tied to how it is handled as it ages. A cheesemonger that cares deeply about moisture, temperature and how cheeses are wrapped will also be able to advise whether or not a cheese is at its peak. Young manchegos I have tasted are a little softer and a lot more mild than the more aged ones. The best versions are crumbly, a little funky in taste and very rich. If you can get your hands on an artisanal manchego, I think the cheese's notes will be more pronounced than the industrially produced ones.

                                                                        1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                          I thought the El Trigal was pretty rich, it really reminded me of Parmesan in a way. I'll be on the hunt for less mass-produced though. You can never taste enough cheese in my book.