The Manchego Cheese

Yes, La Mancha is a region located in the Iberian Peninsula. But this doesn’t mean that all that’s Iberian is Manchego too.

I’m saying this as it has come to my attention that many American shoppers, confused about their “Manchego” appearance, are buying Iberian cheeses in the belief that they buy genuine Manchego.

What’s even worse: They’re paying the prize of the authentic gem but bringing a mere lookalike home!

“Queso Ibérico” or “Iberian Cheese” is a Spanish cheese made from a mixture of cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milk. The ratio of blend used in the making is constantly altered according to seasonal availability. Also, the aging time for this lookalike varies a lot depending on the maker.

If you’ve been following my posts, you would know about the high standards all genuine Manchegos meet. As the regulating council oversees every single aspect of the cheese making process – from the Manchega sheep’s diet to the final aging of each cheese – top quality consistency is achieved in every single Manchego.

Hard work, yes, but a supreme taste no other cheese can match pays off.

The name “Manchego cheese” refers to the cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain using milk from Manchega ewes and aged for at least sixty days.  Manchego cheese is made from pasteurized milk, or unpasteurized milk if the cheese is hand-made, from ewes raised by registered Denomination of Origin farms.

Manchego cheese is the product of a harsh, extreme climate that favours the growth of very tough plants, the diet for a curious ancestral race of sheep, the manchega, that is raised under very strict standards of breeding and health.  The result is a cheese unlike any other. Although there are records of people trying to make manchego cheese elsewhere both inside and outside Spain, nobody has ever successfully imitated so many time-worn factors at the same time beyond the borders of La Mancha.

Identification

To distinguish real Manchego cheese from imitations on the market, you should look at its identification.

A numbered and serialised “counter label” should figure on top of the cheese’s commercial label, with the Denomination of Origin logo.

On the opposite side of the commercial label is the aforementioned casein tab that can be considered as Manchego Cheese’s ID number.

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Finally, it is compulsory for the “queso manchego” to appear in a visible place on all the commercial labels of Manchego cheese. In addition, if it has been made with raw milk, it should also indicate “artesano” (farmhouse).

Allegorical graphic elements of La Mancha can often be seen on commercial labels, such as Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, pictures of windmills, etc., that can lead the consumer to think that it is Manchego cheese when it is not. This fact, together with the incorrect identification of cheese in the sales points, with the use of priceholder and offer signs that incorrectly use the term Manchego, with expressions such as: “Manchego type”, “made in La Mancha”, “soft Manchego”,… which contribute to confusing the consumers even more and are a fraud.

Manchego CheeseTo complete the controls carried out on the protected cheese, the Regulating Council’s inspectors visit the commercial establishments to check that the Manchego cheese on sale complies with the requirements in its Specifications.

Manchego cheese is a very prestigious product, obtained throughout the centuries, closely linked to the territory it comes from, and the tasting of which goes beyond merely satisfying human nutritional needs to become a delight.

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Autor: Ismael Álvarez de Toledo

Ismael Álvarez de Toledo (Tomelloso, España, diciembre de 1956) se dedica en exclusiva al periodismo y la literatura, tras ejercer durante más de veinte años como funcionario del Estado. Desde muy joven tiene inquietudes artísticas, escribe cuentos y esbozos literarios. Participa en numerosos encuentros culturales que le permiten desarrollar su capacidad imaginativa e intelectual con jóvenes de la época y, somete a crítica la actualidad política en España, algo que ha venido haciendo en prensa escrita a lo largo de los años. Ha ejercido su labor periodística en varios gabinetes de prensa de la administración. Asiduo colaborador de periódicos y revistas como ABC, Diario Vasco, Tribuna de Albacete, Diario Montañés, Lanza, Pasos, El Ideal de Granada, Canfali, Diario Crítico, etc. Columnista en El Mercurio, La Nación, de Chile, el Caribeño News, el Globo News. Iás Información y Diario Crítico, entre otros. Como comentarista político ha publicado más de setecientos artículos. Es autor, así mismo de numerosos escritos sobre gastronomía y viajes. Diálogo Interior (1994), Diario de una terrorista (2013) son títulos que siguen presentes en los estantes de las librerías, y consolidan una carrera literaria más allá de nuestras fronteras, donde ha recibido importantes galardones literarios. Presidente de la Sociedad Iberoamericana de Escritores. Coordinador General de Encuentros Literarios. Alcaide de honor del Castillo de Peñafiel, en Valladolid. Medalla Fray Luis de León, del Excmo. Ayuntamiento de Belmonte, en Cuenca.

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