Spanish goat cheese, often simply referred to as Spanish cheese, is a type of cheese made from goat’s milk that originated in Spain. Some of the most well-known and popular varieties of Spanish goat cheese include Cabrales, Majorero, Murcian, Roncal, and Garrotxa. These cheeses are known for their unique flavors and textures that set them apart from other types of goat cheese around the world.
What Makes Spanish Goat Cheese Unique?
There are a few key factors that distinguish Spanish goat cheeses and make them special:
Use of Goat’s Milk
The milk used to make these cheeses comes specifically from goats native to Spain such as the Murciana, Malagueña, Florida, Verata, and the Majorera. Goat’s milk has a higher fat content than cow’s milk which gives Spanish goat cheeses a rich, creamy texture.
The geography, climate, and vegetation of the regions where the goats graze impact the flavor of their milk. Spanish goats often graze in mountainous areas on diverse vegetation leading to complex, nuanced flavors in the cheese.
Many Spanish goat cheeses undergo extensive aging ranging from a few months to several years. Long aging results in complex flavors and textures. For example, cheeses like Majorero are aged in natural caves which allow them to develop an inimitable taste.
Use of Mold
Some Spanish goat cheeses like Cabrales are purposefully inoculated with Penicillium mold spores. As the mold grows, it contributes blue veining and a distinctive piquant flavor. Other cheeses like Garrotxa develop white, powdery rinds of mold during the aging process.
Major Types of Spanish Goat Cheese
Spain produces many excellent goat cheeses, but a few in particular stand out as the most iconic and renowned in the world:
Majorero comes from the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. It is made from the milk of Majorera goats that graze on the wild vegetation of the island landscape. Majorero has a firm, compact paste with small irregular holes. It has a rich, buttery flavor that becomes spicier with extensive aging. Majorero is considered Spain’s finest goat cheese.
This cheese originates from the Murcia region in southeastern Spain. Murcian is made from the milk of the Murciana goat breed. It has a soft, creamy texture with a white rind. The flavor is mild, tangy, and lemony. Murcian cheese pairs well with fruit and wines.
Hailing from the mountains of Asturias, Cabrales is a famous blue cheese made by blending goat’s milk with cow’s and sheep’s milk. It has blue-green veins of mold running through the paste which give it a bold, sharp taste. Cabrales is crumbly when young but becomes softer and creamier with age.
Roncal comes from the Roncal Valley in Navarre. It has a hard, granular texture that is ideal for grating. The flavor is strong, grassy, and nutty. Roncal acquires more piquancy as it matures. It has DOP status and can only be made in this region.
Garrotxa originates in Catalonia. It has a creamy, moist paste with a powdery white rind. Garrotxa is initially mild when young then becomes more intense, woody, and earthy as it ripens. It pairs wonderfully with fruit, nuts, and honey.
How is Spanish Goat Cheese Made?
While specific techniques vary by cheese, traditional Spanish goat cheeses are all made in a similar general process:
1. Milk Collection
Milk is collected from goats typically twice a day. Only the high-quality morning milk is used for cheesemaking.
2. Curdling the Milk
The milk is curdled by adding rennet, an enzyme that coagulates the milk proteins. Natural fermentation and acidification may also play a role.
3. Cutting the Curds
The curdled milk is cut into smaller pieces to separate the curds from the whey. This releases more moisture.
4. Cooking and Draining
The curds are cooked, stirred, and drained to continue expelling whey. This firms up the curd.
Salt is added for flavor and preservation. The curds may be immersed in brine or dry salted.
6. Molding and Pressing
The curds are placed into molds, pressed, and formed into a wheel. Pressure is applied to knit the curds together.
Wheels are aged anywhere from 2 months to 2 years. Conditions like humidity and temperature are controlled.
8. Rind Washing
Periodic washing with brine, wine, or oil helps develop the rind. Mold may also be encouraged.
Nutrition Facts of Spanish Goat Cheese
Spanish goat cheeses are packed with nutrients. Here is the nutrition breakdown for a 1 oz (28g) serving:
|Vitamin A||6% DV|
As shown, goat cheese is high in fat, particularly saturated fat. However, it is mainly unsaturated fat. It is also a great source of calcium and vitamin A. Goat cheese contains no carbohydrates or sugar.
Health Benefits of Spanish Goat Cheese
Incorporating Spanish goat cheese into your diet can provide many excellent health benefits:
High in Calcium
The high concentration of calcium helps promote strong bones and teeth. Just 1 ounce satisfies 20% of your daily calcium needs.
Good Source of Protein
With 6 grams of protein per serving, goat cheese can help build muscle, repair tissues, and provide lasting energy.
Goat cheeses contain bone- and joint-supporting nutrients like vitamin K, selenium, and zinc which help reduce inflammation.
Goat cheese contains less lactose than cheese made from cow’s milk. This makes it easier to digest for those sensitive to lactose.
The high amounts of vitamin A, D, E, and K found in goat cheese help improve nutrient absorption throughout the body.
May Support Heart Health
Studies show the high concentration of medium chain fatty acids in goat cheese may help decrease cholesterol and blood pressure.
How to Select the Best Spanish Goat Cheese
Follow these tips when shopping for authentic, top-quality Spanish goat cheese:
Check the Label
Look for cheeses labelled as produced in Spain for authenticity. Verify it is made with goat’s milk.
Examine the Texture
The paste should be creamy and moist without any dry or crumbly parts. Soft cheeses shouldn’t be runny.
Look for Protected Status
Spain has several PDO cheeses. These have the strictest production regulations and highest quality.
Evaluate the Rind
The rind should be solid, not cracked or oozing liquid. Mold should appear velvety rather than dry or spotty.
Assess the Aroma
There should be a balanced, nuanced smell without strong ammonia scents which indicate over-ripening.
Opt for Well-Cured
Select cheeses that are aged at least 2 months to allow the full flavor profile to develop.
Check the Best By Date
Make sure the cheese has not passed its expiry and has several weeks before going bad.
How to Store Spanish Goat Cheese
Proper storage is key to preserving the quality and extending the shelf life of your cheese:
Use Original Wrapping
Keep cheese wrapped in its original waxed paper or cheese cloth. This allows breathing while maintaining moisture.
After opening, rewrap tightly in plastic wrap or vacuum seal for an airtight seal. This prevents drying out.
Store at 40-50°F in the cheese drawer of the fridge. Avoid temperature fluctuations.
Use Moisture Absorbers
Place a damp paper towel in the packaging to regulate humidity and soften the cheese.
Turn the cheese over every few days so moisture doesn’t pool on one side.
Rinse Moldy Rinds
For mold-ripened varieties, rinse off any mold growing beyond the rind to stop spreading.
Watch for Spoilage
Discard if you spot mold deep in the paste, an ammonia smell, or very dry, cracked texture.
How to Serve Spanish Goat Cheese
Spanish goat cheese is very versatile. Here are some tasty ways to serve it:
On Charcuterie Boards
Pair funky blue cheeses like Cabrales with cured meats, olives, nuts, and honeycomb.
Crumble soft goat cheeses over greens, roasted beets, or warm lentils.
Stuffed in Figs
Sweet fresh figs stuffed with a wedge of salty Garrotxa is a divine combination.
Melted on Flatbreads
Drizzle goat cheese over flatbread or pizza and bake until melted and bubbly.
Flaky puff pastry stuffed with crumbled Murcian cheese makes delectable appetizers.
On Cheese Boards
Serve a selection of Spanish goat cheeses with fresh fruit, nuts, chutney, and olives.
Whisk Majorero into vinaigrettes or sprinkle over dishes like pear and endive salad.
Pairings for Spanish Goat Cheese
Spanish goat cheeses pair wonderfully with these ingredients and beverages:
– Roasted red peppers
Herbs and Spices
– Smoked paprika
– Dry white wine
– Sweet sherry
– Sparkling wine
– Jamón Ibérico
– Roasted nuts
Tips for Cooking with Spanish Goat Cheese
Cooking brings out amazing new dimensions to Spanish goat cheeses. Follow these tips:
– Add it at the End
Add crumbled goat cheese at the end of cooking so it softens but doesn’t completely melt.
– Toast It
Lightly toast wedges or slices of firm cheese in a pan or oven until bubbly.
– Stuff It
Fill mushrooms, peppers, or chicken breasts with a blend of cheese, herbs, and breadcrumbs.
– Top It
Make amazing gratins by topping dishes with goat cheese before baking.
– Mix It In
Stir crumbled soft goat cheese into risottos, pasta, and mashed potatoes.
– Skewer It
Assemble skewers with cheese chunks alternating with veggies, fruit, and nuts.
– Fry It
Bread wedges of firm cheese and fry in olive oil until golden brown.
In summary, Spanish goat cheeses like Majorero, Murcian, Cabrales, Roncal, and Garrotxa have distinct textures and complex flavors that food lovers around the world cherish. The unique terroir, mold, and aging techniques produce cheeses brimming with taste. With their high nutrition content and velvety richness, it’s no wonder Spanish goat cheeses continue to grow in popularity both in Spain and globally. They make wonderful additions to charcuterie boards, salads, pastries, flatbreads, and more. With proper storage and handling, you can enjoy the impressive range of authentic Spanish goat cheeses for months to come.