INFORMATION ABOUT HANDICRAFT MANCHEGO CHEESE
The name “Manchego cheese” refers to the cheese made in the region of La Mancha with manchega sheep’s milk and aged for at least 60 days.
Manchego cheese is made using pasteurized milk, or using unpasteurized milk if it is handicraft cheese, in both cases the milk comes from farms registered in the Denomination of Origin.
Manchego cheese is the product of a harsh, extreme climate that favours the growth of very tough plants, which are the diet for a curious ancestral race of sheep. These sheep are under a very strict morphological and health control. These features offer as a result a unique cheese in the world. Although is on record that it has been tried to elaborate Manchego cheese elsewhere, both inside and outside Spain, it has been impossible imitating many and so old factors at the same time beyond the borders of La Mancha.
The earliest information we have about Manchego cheese is that it was made and eaten many centuries before Jesus Christ. Although we do not know what methods our ancestors used to elaborate this natural product, we can suppose that their cheese tasted very similar to ours, and also their elaboration methods would surely be very similar to the current ones.
Archeological remains show that in the Bronze Age, where is now known as La Mancha, the inhabitants used to elaborate a sheep’s milk cheese from a race of sheep that we might consider the ancestors of our current manchega sheep. This race survived the passage of centuries roaming the lands from which it takes its name.
La Mancha was named by Arab people, who called this place Al Mansha, or “waterless land”
, a perfect description of this harsh region of Spain. The dry and extreme climate has made La Mancha the only place in the world with a vegetation that is able to withstand the torrid hot of summer months and the devastating frosts of winter months.
In this environment, seemingly unfavourable for any animal or plant, many grammineus and legume species grow, which are the basis of the diet of manchega sheep, adapted to this environment since far-off times.
1. Milking and milk chilling:
the sheep are milked by hand or by machine. The milk is then filtered and deposited in refrigerated tanks, where it is chilled down to 4° C.
2. Curdling and curd cutting:
the milk is moved into curdling vats, where it is curdled using natural rennet or other coagulation enzymes. For this process the milk is heated to 30° C.and kept at that temperature for 45 minutes. The curd is then cut up several times until the individual pieces are the size of rice grains.
HOW TO IDENTIFY MANCHEGO CHEESE
If you see a whole Manchego cheese
NUTRITIONAL PROPERTIES OF MANCHEGO CHEESE
The outside aspect has a braided basket-weave design, and its flat top and bottom will have lines dividing the surface into four equal parts.
The natural colour, depending on how it has been aged, may vary between ivory to light brown. The rind may be coated with inactive transparent substances.
The brand label must reflect that the cheese is made entirely with manchega sheep’s milk. You might also see the word “manchego”.
Manchego cheese can only be made in the area covered by the Denomination of Origin, which comprises part of the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Toledo.
Stuck on the commercial label you might find a distinctive label of the Denomination of Origin Regulating Council, with its logotype and serial number, which ensures that the cheese has passed the quality control.
Manchego cheese is a very complete food that concentrates all the nutritional qualities of milk.
It has a high proportion of proteins, what makes it even richer in proteins than meat.
Manchego cheese also has such important vitamins as A, D and E, which are fundamental to metabolic processes such as growth, tissues preservation and calcium absorption.
Because of its ingredients, Manchego cheese is recommended for people of all ages. During the growth season because of its high calcium content. For adults, the large amount of proteins that it provides helps recover the daily expenditure of these vital substances. Lastly, Manchego cheese is a great food for elderly people because it greatly retards bone decalcification and it is easier to digest than milk.