All you need to know about Manchego cheese
One of our absolute favorite cheeses to enjoy with friends over a glass of wine is the Manchego cheese. Lucky for us, we have partnered with the cheese producer Queso Gómez Moreno. It is only fitting that we have created a special bond with them and want to share their story.
What is Manchego cheese?
Manchego cheese is one of the most popular types of cheese in Spain. It is literally everywhere because it is the cheese of choice for tapas! So, what exactly is Manchego cheese? To start, it is made of manchega sheep’s milk. It originates from the La Mancha region in Spain, which consists of large areas of plateaus.
Where does the name “Manchego” come from?
The name ‘Manchego’ comes from the specific breed of sheep, manchega, that thrive on the plateau. Their milk is used to make this cheese and it can be raw or pasteurized. It may not seem like it, but these two variations have a very distinct taste. Manchego made with manchega raw milk will be more complex and have more nuances and character. This is because it contains the notes of the wild grass or herbs that the sheep graze, giving it more flavor. If you have ever noticed the rind of Manchego cheese you will see that is has a distinct zigzag pattern. Back in the past, they used molds made from esparto grass, which gave it this pattern. Nowadays, producers still use this design on the rind as a nod to tradition.
Besides the differences between pasteurized or unpasteurized milk, the amount of time the cheese is left in the natural caves to age can vary depending on the desired effect. Manchego Curado, semi-cured, is aged between 3-6 months. During this time, it becomes halfway solid. The end results to a hint of yellow coloring in the paste of the cheese.
What does the Manchego cheese taste like?
The Manchego cheese taste can be described as mild and nutty. This cheese is great for cooking. On the other hand, Manchego Viejo is cured for a year in the caves. This gives it a harder and crumbly texture. The paste is more notably yellow. It has a more complex cheese flavor with notes of salt and an intense spiciness. Manchego Viejo is delicious paired with Serrano ham over a fresh piece of bread drizzled with olive oil. In addition, it can also be enjoyed with Marcona almonds, quince paste, and perfectly pairs well with Rioja wine.
History of the Gómez Moreno family as cheesemakers
Along our journey to share Spanish gastronomy, we have the pleasure to meet many families. One of the most special families that we have met is the Gómez Moreno family. They have been making authentic Manchego cheese for more than a century! Their ancestors, a family of shepherds, have passed down their knowledge from generation to generation since the 19th century. The key to their success is due to owning their own livestock of more than 4,000 sheep.
This allows them to be selective and have pure manchega sheep milk. They raise and care for the sheep by making sure they have a healthy diet based on grazing the natural pastures full of wild grasses and herbs. This is excellent for making an outstanding raw milk cheese! Each piece of manchego cheese is a gastronomic delight.
Where does the Carpuela brand stand for?
The Gómez Moreno family has their own brand of cheese called ‘Carpuela’. This name is a family nickname that is traced to the great grandfather, Bernardo “el Carpio”, who began the whole cheese business adventure. Bernardo was an amazing storyteller and had an outgoing personality. Then, fellow villagers compared him to Bernardo del Carpio, a legendary figure from the Spanish Middle Ages who inspired many plays, novels, and epic poems.
This comparison travelled fast and soon he became known as Bernardo Carpuela. When Bernardo decided to sell his wonderful cheese, he saw it fitting to name the brand Carpuela Cheeses. This was a nod to his craftmanship as well as his love for tales. The idea of this name is to invite people to share conversation while enjoying the cheese. Bernardo could now continue to feed the imagination as well as the stomachs and palates of people.
Meet our Manchego cheese maker
We were able to ask some questions to get an insider point of view of the family business. We talked with José Ángel Gómez Moreno who is the general director. He does a little bit of everything in the company, but his favorite part of the job is when he can reflect over the journey that the company took from the beginning to all the things they have accomplished now. He also loves visualizing the future of the company because he can imagine, plan, and do things to continue to improve.
The family is still 100% involved in the business and there is a total of 15 people who work in the factory or with the sheep. In fact, his mother is the cheese master, and his father oversees the livestock because he has a passion for animals. The children bring the touch of modernity and adaptation to the new times and new knowledge.
What is their identifying seal?
The identifying seal of Gómez Moreno Cheese is that they do exceptional cheeses. They are exceptional because the milk in the cheese is from their own herd. Exceptional because they love their sheep and care for their welfare. Exceptional because these sheep eat like royalty thanks to a natural diet. And exceptional because the family has accumulated a century of experience in making manchego cheese. To this day, the legacy is in the hands of the cheesemaker, who follows the same process of patience and individualized care for each cheese.
Manchego cheese uses and recipes
We do not have a favorite type of cheese because believe that there is always a type of cheese for every occasion.
For example, an artisan cured Manchego cheese is perfect for an appetizer with a glass of red wine. A board of different cheeses is perfect for a dinner or family meal. A semi cured Manchego cheese is lovely with green-leaf salads or to enhance the taste of a pasta dish. An artisan cheese with truffle is a wonderful way to give a sophisticated touch to a hamburger.
4 reasons why this manchego cheese is exceptional:
1. Quality from start to finish.
The milk comes from their own herd. Which allows them greater control and ensure that it is of the highest quality. They can also achieve the optimal texture and not lose flavor or nutritional value throughout the process. Their greatest specialization is Manchego cheese D.O. Artisan of manchega raw milk. This means that it has more nuances than pasteurized milk and that it requires more care in its preparation. For these reasons, we are sure it is something that you will undoubtedly enjoy when eating!
2. The secret is in the hands of the cheesemaker teacher (currently the mother of the manager).
The family owes the techniques, the know-how, and the secrets to achieve excellence to their grandfather, who made the cheese with patience and care. This is the legacy that they honor every day. They do so by having the cheesemaker pay attention to every detail. This has earned them several international awards.
3. They love and protect their sheep.
Their father imprinted on them the importance of properly caring for the welfare of the sheep. They do this by providing them with good housing and with the daily replacement of dry straw where they sleep so they have the maximum comfort. They allow all lambs to suckle from their mothers until they can fend for themselves. This is good for the well-being of both the baby and the mother.
4. The sheep eat like royalty!
The sheep have a natural proximity diet. This means that they graze freely on fresh local grass. This land has a variation of vegetation that adapts to the climate and seasons. Additionally, they also enjoy seasonal delicacies such as walnuts, grapes, and melons (which so happen to be their favorite!). This variation and nutritional richness in their diet allows the cheese to have hints of exceptional aromas and flavors.
4 important values
To sum-up the Gómez Moreno family holds four very important values that help them to be successful, they are the following:
- Search for excellence.
- Patience and effort.
- Commitment to sustainability: it is essential to care for the land and the environment. For these reasons they are implementing solar panels for self-consumption in the cheese factory.
- Equality. They value a strong female presence where women have the same opportunities and responsibilities as men.
Gómez Moreno and Carpuela manchego cheeses
We would love to share with you the 6 amazing products that this family business has to offer. They all vary which is perfect for any occasion.
Carpuela: The Manchego Cheeses Made With Raw Milk
- Semi-cured D.O. Manchego “Carpuela”: aged between 2-4 months. It has a balanced and good flavor profile. It is a little nutty and has a pleasant aftertaste.
- Cured D.O. Manchego “Carpuela”: aged between 6-9 months. It has a balanced and intense flavor. Long and excellent aftertaste.
- Reserva D.O. Manchego “Carpuela”: aged for 12 months. Balanced and sharp flavor. It is slightly spicy. It has a long and excellent aftertaste.
Truffego: It Is Not Truffle Manchego!
Truffle cheese raw sheep’s milk cheese “Gómez Moreno”: aged between 2-4 months with black summer truffles. It has an intense truffle aroma. It has a balanced and exquisite flavor with a pleasant aftertaste. This cheese cannot be called Manchego cheese because it has truffles in it!
Carea: Raw Milk Cheeses with Rosemary Or Olive Oil
- Rosemary raw sheep’s milk cheese “Carea”: it is balanced. Aromatic smell of fresh rosemary. It has a good flavor profile with a hint of rosemary. It has a pleasant aftertaste.
- Olive oil raw sheep’s milk cheese “Carea”: it has a sharp and slightly spicy flavor. It has a long and pleasant aftertaste.
We sincerely hope that this article has helped you further understand the history and tasteful characteristics of Manchego cheese. It is one of our favorite types of cheese and we love to enjoy it around the company of great friends! Now you can too.
If you want to learn some tips and tricks to preserve your cheeses at home click here.
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- How to tell the difference between Artisan and Industrial Cheese.