Advertisement
Vegetarians of the world, rejoice!
Vegetarians can raise a toast to Manchego cheese as the protein content in it rivals that of most meats. Also, being a hard variant of cheese made with sheep's milk, it is naturally low in lactose, making it a safe choice for people who are mildly lactose intolerant.
Speak of Spanish cheese, and one can only think of the creamy goodness of the Manchego. As with most varieties of European cheese, the Manchego too comes with a long and interesting history, dating back to not just centuries, but several millennia. Not surprising, when one factors in the Manchego's rich, distinct taste, and the fact that it is loaded with nutrients.

Let's take a look at the origin of Manchego cheese, how it's made, and some nutritional information.
Manchego Cheese Origin
► Manchego cheese or queso manchego is a hard cheese made out of unpasteurized sheep's milk, exclusively produced in the La Mancha region in central Spain. The breed of sheep is Manchega, also exclusive to the region.
La Mancha in Spain
► Some may also know it as the cheese of Don Quixote, because Miguel de Cervantes mentioned it in his novel, Don Quixote of La Mancha.

► If local lore is to be believed, archeological finds dating back to the Bronze Age show that the inhabitants of La Mancha had mastered the art of making cheese using sheep's milk. These sheep are considered to be ancestors of the modern-day Manchega sheep.
► The brand is protected under Spain's Denominación de Origen (DO) classification system. Also, this cheese has garnered Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union.
Preparation Techniques and Authenticity
► Authentic queso manchego needs to fulfill each of the following requirements:

● Produced in the provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, and Toledo in the La Mancha region
● Made using whole milk of manchega sheep raised on registered farms within the designated area
● Aged for a minimum of 60 days and maximum of 2 years
● Made in a cylindrical mold with a maximum height of 12 cm and a maximum diameter of 22 cm
Manchego cheese rind
► Cheese makers used a specific technique to make this cheese in the traditional manner―the curd was pressed into plaited esparto grass baskets, which lent a unique zig-zag impression on the rind.

► The esparto grass baskets have been replaced by new-age molds, but these have been designed in a manner to replicate the distinct imprint made by the grass baskets.
► In case you're looking to buy authentic Manchego cheese, look for a label issued by the Manchego Cheese Denomination of Origin Regulating Council that has the legend of queso manchego, a serial number, and artwork depicting Don Quixote de La Mancha.
Taste and Serving Suggestions
Manchego cheese
► So, what does Manchego cheese taste like? There is a lot of richness which comes from the whole milk that goes into its making. It has a butter-like smoothness, despite its hard to semi-hard state, and leaves a sharp and somewhat piquant aftertaste.
Manchego cheese tapas
► The rind is straw-colored, thin, and inedible. The cheese is served at room temperature―cut it into thin slices, and make an incredible tapas item to go with cured Iberian ham and marinated olives. It pairs well with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Sangiovese wines.
Calories and Nutritional Information
NUTRITION (Per ounce)
Manchego cheese
Calories: 90
Total fat: 7 g
Saturated fat: 5 g
Trans fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 20 mg
Sodium: 150 mg
Calcium: 300 mg
Protein: 7g
Carbohydrate: 0 g
Dietary fiber: 0 g
Sugars: 0 g
Vitamin A: 150 IU
► As you can see, Manchego cheese is packed with the power of protein―the building blocks that boost muscle mass. It has no carbohydrates, and high levels of calcium and vitamin A, which helps in strengthening bones. However, it also comes with a lot of saturated fats, which basically means that you need to combine a steady exercise regime to avoid piling on the pounds.
Manchego Varieties
Manchego Cheese
Fresco or 'fresh' Manchego is aged for 2 weeks. This cheese has a rich but mild flavor. Owing to its freshness, it's made minimally, and is rarely found anywhere other than Spain.
Curado is a semi-firm cheese aged for three to six months with a flavor best describes as sweet and nutty.
Semicurado is aged for three weeks to three months, with a milder taste than the curado.
Viejo is aged for a year, during which it hardens completely. It has a very deep, rich piquant taste.