Monday, June 22, 2009

Spanish Iberico Cheese


Iberico is one of the best known and most purchased cheeses in Spain, but it does not have very much exposure in the United States. Here in the states Manchego is the most familiar Spanish cheese followed by Mahon and Idiazabal. So we hope to shed a little light on this wonderful cheese and expose our readers to it.

Iberico cheese is produced only in the province of Valladolid in central Spain. In order to maintain some semblance of order and control of its large cheese production the Spanish government created the Denominations of Origin Certification. This designation controls the name, area, and standards of production to insure a consistent quality product. Iberico is not yet DOC certified but it has applied for certification and hopes to receive it soon. However the dairies that produce this cheese have maintained their own high standards and guidelines since 1987.

Iberico is made with a blend of pasteurized milk from cows, goats and sheep. The combination of these three milks varies from season to season based on the weather and the breeding patterns of the goats and sheep. However the following minimum guidelines are strictly adhered to by the producing dairies. The blend minimums are: cow milk 50%, goat milk 30% and sheep milk 10% In general the cows’ milk provides the flavor and acidity while the goats’ milk provides the slightly tart flavor and the whiter color and the sheep milk adds the richness and buttery consistency due to its higher fat content. With that said, the fact is that the higher the content of the sheep’s’ milk the better the cheese. Iberico's flavor is herbaceous with a very mild goat tang that blends with the buttery sheep milk to produce a very comforting flavor and aroma. The interior paste has a light yellow white to slight beige color and a mild sheepy aroma. Once the aging 2 month process ends the cheeses are covered with a plastic outer rind that is inedible. This rind is similar in appearance to the one that covers the popular Manchego so Iberico can and is sometimes confused with it, so be careful when you are shopping for it.

In Spain Iberico is usually used as a table cheese served with quince paste (membrillo) but it is also a great melting cheese so it can be used in many recipes. Here are a few suggestions: shred it in an omelet, slice into your favorite salads, melt it over pasta or potatoes and rice entrees. For a tapas serve it with Chorizo or Serrano ham and a hearty bread.

Wine parings: Medium Spanish reds or a good Pinot Noir or Beaujolais or for a white wine try Sauvignon Blanc.






El Cortijo Manchego Cheese Wedge - Cheese (Google Affiliate Ad)

10 comments:

  1. Iberico is manchegos intellectual cousin. Just as Spanish yet more sophisticated. Quince paste pairs perfectly but I have enjoyed up to a half pound of it with a bottle of Ribera Del Duero in a solitary sitting. Enjoy Maximo!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is most like the cheese that we ate in Portugal for breakfast with the most wonderful rolls which I just got a recipe for!

    ReplyDelete
  3. When I purchased mine, it had little spots of blue mold growing on it, but I didn't care and ate it anyway, mold and all! The tangy flavor provided by the goats milk blended nicely with the mold, which lent a flavor similar to blue cheese! Indeed, Iberico delivers greater complexity and more interesting notes than its relatively dull half brother, manchego. Maybe I should have taken it back, but it tastes yummers!

    ReplyDelete
  4. We try different cheeses all the time. Because of where we live, I am limited to buying it at our local Sam's Club. Sometimes our commissary will carry new cheeses but are so pricey that I choose not to buy them. I tried the Manchego and did not like the taste at all. It was strong and overpowering. I like Goat Cheese but have never tried Sheeps cheese. I am definitely willing to give Iberico cheese a try. The packaging and the cheese itself just look so apetizing. However, I wanted to look for some reviews before spending so much money on it. I am now excited to give it a try as I have seen many good reviews on it. Thanks for this site.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. if you do not like manchego, you probably would not like iberico. try instead naked goat or drunken goat, both spanish, and quite delicious.

      Delete
    2. Search out Whole Foods in your area, they have excellent cheese departments. If you like goat cheeses try Garrotxa(Spain)or Kunik (US). Thanks for reading my blog.

      Delete
  5. Personally, this is a 'dream' cheese. I love cheeses made from sheep's milk, but they're not as available where I live. Personally, I would prefer a blend that had slightly less goat's milk but truthfully, it was delicious. Very soft and creamy. I used some to top home made French onion soup. It was perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just purchased this cheese and I was surprised that the calorie, fat, cholesterol, etc was not listed. Mine "slice" came from a larger wheel and I asked the deli person to check if it was listed on the large wheel. Surprise it was not. Reason???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nutritional labels are(not)provided by the producer of the cheese. Many of the labels that are provided just list the ingredients. Sheep cheeses usually have the highest fat content. By the way I hope you enjoy your Iberico it is a great cheese.

      Delete
  7. If you are having trouble fine these fantastic cheese, try your local Aldi's. I always find a variety of international cheeses at Aldi's and prices are nice. Today, I picked up Iberico and Cabra Al Vino.

    ReplyDelete