Eating Cheese in ANTEQUERA
All Ways Cheese
Queso is the word for cheese.
Spanish cheese is a mainstay of the daily diet here.
As a tapa, it is consumed only with bread, or marinated in olive oil.
As an entrada to a meal, cheese will likely be served on a plate in an evenly placed circle of sliced triangular portions.
On the family table, or in a restaurant, this centre table plate is commonly served with a similarly portioned racione of thinly sliced iberico ham.
Cheese and ham are considered to complement each other well.
Equally, cheese can be taken as a dessert (postre). It will commonly be accompanied with a desert wine or liqueur, or just more red wine!
Restaurants in Antequera will always offer a racione of cheese as an option on the menu. It is usually located in the entradas section.
Buying Cheese in ANTEQUERA
The supermarkets in Antequera are well stocked with a decent variety of Spanish cheeses. If you enjoy cheese, you can find some great tastes in the chilled cabinets.
There are also some good delicatesans dotted about with less mainstream cheeses.
Obviously the essential characteristic of any cheese is the type of milk used in it’s production.
It can be made individually from the milk of cows, sheep, goats, or a blend of two, or combination of all.
On cheese packaging in supermarkets you will see:
- Oveja – Sheep’s milk based cheese.
- Cabra – Goat milk based cheese.
- De leche de vaca – Cow’s milk cheese. This descriptor may be pre-empted with a cow’s head symbol.
Spanish Cheese Varieties
Spain produces over 100 varieties of cheese.
In fact, it produces far more than this, if you take into account the small family ‘churneries’ in many regions, offering their own localised flavour to the typical cheese of that region. But these need to be sought out locally, and are not commercially marketed.
Below are just some of the most popular cheeses in Spain. We cannot guarantee you will find them all in Antequera. If you do, don’t hesitate to give them a go.
The most famous Spanish cheese is manchego. It is widely available in all supermarkets.
The name comes from the province of La Mancha, where it is made from pure sheep’s milk: queso de oveja.
Manchego is sold either as a complete circular cheese (about 10 to 15 cms diameter in supermarkets), half circular, or in sliced portions. All will be vacuum wrapped.
It has a hard patterned rind, ranging from deep yellow to almost black.
It’s texture and taste will vary with the category of age of the cheese. These are classically denoted as: Fresco, Semi Curado, Curado.
Fresco – fresh. A cheese that is young, being sold after just 60 days of maturation. It will be pale in colour, and soft to cut.
It has a nice flavour, but without the ‘sting’ on the tongue of older cheeses that some people seek.
Semi Curado – semi cured. A semi curado cheese will have been maturing for up to six months with a local producer, or between two and four months in an industrial dairy.
It is more dense and compact at this point than a young cheese, and the taste is more intense.
Curado – fully cured. A mature cheese that must have been matured for a minimum of six months.
It is now hard, and will likely flake off the knife when sliced thinly.
It has a strong flavour, with a lasting tang on the tongue.
Note: However, these may be the official terms, but from observation in the supermarkets of Antequera, the term Viejo (old) is commonly used to denote the most matured.
Viejo cheese will carry a small price premium over the younger cheeses.
The manchego cheeses are certainly to be enjoyed, but there are many sheep milk cheeses from other regions too. In the supermarkets, you will see cheeses marked ‘oveja‘, which don’t necessarily come from La Mancha.
For example, there are lovely cheeses from Roncal (see below). These are well produced, from sheep’s milk, and offer good value. They will be prescribed by age, as described above.
Mato is a slightly sweet, unsalted cheese from Catalonia. It is similar to ‘cottage cheese’.
Historically, it was made with goat’s milk (when nobody could afford a cow!). Nowadays it is produced from a blend of both.
It is sold in the shape of an upturned bowl. If you can find it in the supermarket it will likely be boxed, with a vacuum wrapping inside.
Mato cheese is commonly served as part of a dessert, with honey and fruit.
I think it is delicious with a celery stick, and a glass of chilled white wine.
This blue veined cheese is very popular in Spain.
It is made with the all three varieties of milk, in the Asturias.
Asturias is considered the centre of cheese production in Spain.
Unpasteurised cow’s milk is blended with quantities of sheep and goat milk.
It is sold in foil wrapping, with a maple leaf emblem.
Cabrales has a strong, quite creamy taste, with a sharp aroma.
If you like ‘blue’ cheese, this is a cracker.
Torta del Casar
This wonderful cheese is made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk, in the province of Caceres, in the Extremedura region, near the border of Portugal.
It has a distinctive, rich, creamy taste, and very soft texture.
It is normally bought whole. It has the shape of a tart (hence the description torta).
You are unlikely to find this in the supermarkets, but there is a delicatessen in Calle Canbreros, by the San Augustin church, which is off Plaza San Sebastian. They may stock it in their chilled cheese cabinet. Or, you may be able to order it.
Note: This delicatessen, incidentally, has a nice small wine bar at the rear, with non mainstream wines on offer.
Roncal is a full fat cheese produced in the Pyrenean valleys of Navarra.
The milk is obtained from the Lacha and Rasa breeds of sheep, which are indigenous to this area.
It has a mild, slightly smokey flavour.
It cuts firmly.
If you look in the supermarket chillers in Antequera you will see Oveja cheeses from Roncal, of the various age groups. You can buy it whole, halved, or sliced. It comes vacuum wrapped.
It is good value. An inexpensive sample if you are not familiar with classic Spanish cheeses.
It is also much used by restaurants for their tapas, or raciones of cheese.
Cana de Cabra
This particular goat milk cheese is made in Murcia.
Murcia is a mountainous region around three hours drive from Antequera, to the north east of Malaga. It is renowned, amongst other things, for it’s high-quality goats milk.
This lovely cabra cheese is produced in a log shape, for slices to be readily cut off for individual servings.
It has a mild, creamy taste, and often with a lemony aftertaste.
Pan grilled roundels of this cheese are great over a salad. You will see this offered in restaurants in Antequera, and throughout Spain.
You can buy this distinctive cheese too, in supermarkets here. It is packaged boxed or foil wrapped, in small ‘logs’. Some of these cabra cheese logs may not be from Murcia, but they are worth trying anyway.
Definitely recommended as a complement to the more prevalent oveja cheeses.
This cheese is made in Grazalema, about a two and a half hour drive from Antequera. It is made from a mixture of the local Payoso goats milk and Grazelema sheep milk.
It is quite rich in flavour, with a tang. It is creamier than a classic manchego cheese. This won a bronze in the Spain’s Best Cheese award in 2014.
This cheese is made from pasteurised goat’s milk, in the region of Leon. It has a dense and smooth texture, white in colour, under a mottled grey rind.
The flavours are creamy, with a slight lemon taste. With age the texture gets more runny, and the tastes more intense. A fabulous looking cheese to serve on a cheeseboard. You might find this in Carrefour, Aldi, or the previously mentioned delicatessen in Calle Canbreros.
Antequeran supermarkets also have a range of cheeses from abroad.
Parmesan cheese from Italy is available in both fresh, and packaged ground form.
Mozarella can be bought individually in packaged form, or shredded, for use on pizzas or salads.
Lidl and Mercadona are reliably good for both.
French Brie’s and Camembert’s are widely on offer in Antequera.
In Carrefour, Lidl, and Mercadona, there are also some tempting French blue cheeses to be found.
Cheddar cheese is purchasable from Lidl, Mercadona, and Carrefour. The ex-pat communities in nearby Mollina, and Fuente de Piedra, though, are quick to absorb the on-shelf stock. Shop before Saturday morning!
Then, just grab a fresh baguette from the bakery!