When it comes to Spanish cheese, Manchego cheese; a pressed cheese from the la Mancha region is perhaps the most popular variety.
This region is also known to produce other commercial varieties of cheese including Iberico cheese.
Manchego and Iberico are often packaged similarly- one of the defining characteristics of the cheeses produced with this region. They both feature a characteristic zig zag pattern on their rinds.
Iberico closely resembles Manchego cheese, however, there are important differences that define each of these cheeses.
In this post, we’ll discuss the differences between these two varieties of Spanish cheese- the types of milks that they are made from, their flavors as well as their textures.
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Difference between Manchego and Iberico
Both are Spanish cheese originating from the region of la Mancha in Spain.
Iberico cheese is like Manchego, however each cheese has its peculiarities.
Manchego cheese has PDO (Protected designation of origin) status, and its requirements are strictly defined, one is that it is made from a particular breed of sheep’s milk.
However, unlike Manchego cheese, which is made from only sheep’s milk, Iberico can be made with a mixture of cow’s, goat’s and even ewe’s milk.
Iberico cheese also has a milder flavor and is cheaper compared Manchego.
What is Iberico cheese?
Also known as queso Iberico.
It is a traditional Spanish cheese that is made from the pasteurized or unpasteurized milks of cow, sheep and goat.
A white cheese with a natural rind. This cheese is semi cured, and it could also be aged for months up to years.
Iberico is a hard cheese. The texture of this cheese is firm and oily.
It has a strong flavor and aroma. The flavor is complex and can be described as buttery, fruity and nutty.
This cheese can be used as a table cheese. It can also be grated to be used to top pasta dishes.
Manchego cheese is a cheese from La Mancha that is made strictly from the milk of Manchega breed of sheep.
Authentic Manchego is made from raw sheep’s milk, but it could also be made with pasteurized milk. Manchego made with raw milk is known as artesano.
Manchego cheese is white to yellow in color. It has a nutty, tangy flavor, and a strong smell similar to the diet of sheep.
The cheese is made by heating milk with rennet for the milk to curdle, following which the curds are pressed and then brined.
Traditionally, the curds of Manchego cheese are pressed in a basket made from esparto grass which imprints the characteristic pattern from the basket weave on the rind.
Moulds with the same pattern can also be used to imprint that pattern on the cheese.
Another characteristic of this cheese is the head of wheat designs which can be found on both surfaces of the cheese.
Manchego cheese is also brined. During aging, the exterior of the cheese is brushed with olive oil, and the rind is often covered in wax, and therefore not edible.
The younger Manchego cheese has a milder flavor than the aged varieties.
The more it is aged, the more intense the flavor of this Spanish cheese becomes. It also develops a peppery bite.
Manchego cheese has a high fat content of about 57 percent.
This can also be used for grating over dishes such as pasta. It can also be used for grilling and for baking.
Types of Manchego cheese
The texture and flavor of this cheese varies based on how it has been aged.
The flavor of this cheese becomes sharper as it ages, and texture becomes crumbly the longer it is aged.
Manchego cheese is typically aged for more than 2 weeks.
It can be categorized based on the duration that it is aged for.
Although not considered a true Manchego cheese because of the duration it is aged, Fresco is a mild flavored Manchego cheese that is aged for up to 2 weeks.
Semi curado is a variety that is aged from 3 weeks to 3 months. It also has a mild flavor.
Curado is aged for 3–6 months, it is firm and has a nutty flavor.
Viejo is Manchego cheese that is aged for up to 2 years. It has a deeper flavor with a peppery note, and a firm crumbly texture that can be grated.