Friday, 13 April 2012

Spanish foods: Cheese from Zamora

Spain has a long tradition of producing cheese. Many cheeses are made in Spain, some of them are internationally renowned, and also there are many PDO. Throughout the entire country there is a wide variety of cheeses made from the milk of cows, goats and sheep. Some of them are manufactured from single types of milk of sheep, goat or cow and a few are mixtures of different milks.

There is a huge variation in the presentation of the cheeses, from the hard, dark-skinned, to the soft, small and tender. The cheeses are made in a wide variety of styles including fresh, matured, semi-matured, and from different types of milk such as pasteurised, unpasteurised or creamy. Therefore, some of them are inoculated with moulds to make blue varieties.

We are going to analyze and describe some characteristics of each producing area in different posts, but today we want to talk about Cheese from Castilla y Leon, the largest region of Spain.

Castilla y Leon is one of the oldest regions of Spain, as it was from where it started the Spanish reconquest in the Middle Ages. Many products are made on the traditional way. Its cuisine is based on roast and cooked meats, most notably roast lamb, black pudding (morcilla), legumes, the humble and great garlic soup, and red, rosé, claret and white PDO wines.

But definitely, there are two notably foods in this area: Jamon and CheeseSpecifically cheese from Zamora, a province of Castilla y Leon, is really known. This is a hard cheese which is typically aged about alt least 6 months. The cheeses are turned often and rubbed with olive oil, giving the cheese its characteristic dark colour. The secret of its flavour is the breed of sheep, the ‘Churra’: small, scruffy and predominant Castilian sheep.

The cheese is hard and nutty, but creamy, sweet and savory flavour. Some of them are a bit spicy. So similar to the famous Manchego cheese, its shape is cylindrical with a distinctive zig zag pattern.

Chesees from Zamora are protected and controlled by its PDO (Protected Designation of Origin by the EU) which specifies its production, ingredients, and maturation.

Blue Label – Fresh: short maturation, milk-white colour.

Green Label – Semi-matured: melting in the mouth. From 3 to 5 months of curing process.

Black Label – Matured: thick and bit dry, but pleasant flavour, its colour is ivory-white. The curing process takes from 7 to 9 months.

Burgundy label – Aged or Reserva: honey colour, stong and aromatic, reminiscent of sheeps flavour. More than 11 months of maturation.

Cheese in Spain is served sliced as a tapa, usually together with Jamon, sausages and other cold meats. But it’s quite ordinary to see a group of friends sitting at the table and tasting different kids of cheese. The Spanish are really good cheese producers, one of our greatest treasures indeed. But above all, we are excellent tasters not only of Spanish cheese, but of the whole world.

In the coming weeks, we will continue talking about cheeses from other parts of Spain, as Manchego, Spanish most valued cheese. 

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