The Manchego Cheese Denomination comprises the largest Natural Region of Spain, located in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula. Its northern end is 50 km from Madrid. It has an extension of 35 000 km2 with maximum distances of about 300 km from east to west and about 200 from north to south.
Geologically it is a plain with an altitude between 650 and 800 meters above sea level. Its climate is extreme, with great thermal oscillations, superior to 50ºC; clear sky in 80% of the days, little rain (375 mm per year), irregular and variable winds.
The leftovers from cereal and legumes harvest are exploited by the Manchego sheep. In this natural region there is a great variety of perennial plants, vital in the diet of this animal, which together with other aromatic species are specific to this area, having a decisive influence on the composition of the milk.
The Manchego Cheese PDO Regulations only allow milk obtained from Manchego sheep to be processed into Manchego cheese. The Manchego sheep comes from entrefino ewes, with the suitability for dual purpose production: milk and meat. Two varieties are admitted within this breed; the white and the black. The first of them exceeds in census more than 90% of the actual breed stock. It produces an average of 100 litres / animal / year, with a marked seasonality coinciding with the months of April, May and June.
THE REGULATORY COUNCIL OF THE DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN FOR MANCHEGO CHEESE.
The milk for making Manchego cheese must come exclusively from purebred Manchego sheep.
The milk is extracted from the udders of the sheep manually or mechanically and after filtering, it is deposited in cooling tanks to lower its temperature to 4 ºC.
The characteristics of the milk meant from the production of Manchego cheese are strictly defined by the Regulatory Council of the PDO.
The milk undergoes processes of deaeration, clarification and standardization.
Through this, milk is obtained under optimum conditions for the manufacturing of the final product.
Milk used to make Manchego cheese can be raw or pasteurized.
The milk is pasteurized at about 75 ° C for a period of 15 to 20 seconds. By this way, microorganisms that could be found in milk are destroyed.
For this process, the milk is heated and maintained at high temperature in the curd vats for approximately 45 minutes.
The curd obtained is subjected to successive cuts to get small grains similar to those of rice.
The draining stranding is done in the same curd vats. It consists in the separation of the whey from the curd.
Cutting of the curd:
The curd is cut to favour the stranding until obtaining grains of small size.
As a result of the cutting and the agitation of the curd, whey is produced, which is eliminated from the vat through perforated sieves that allow it to pass and retain the curd grains.
With the paste obtained, the moulds are filled.
With the pressing, the draining is completed, forcing the elimination of whey. And with the moulding the cheese is given its definitive shape with its characteristic cylindrical shape.
Then the moulding is carried out. The moulds have a large number of perforations through which the serum will be eliminated during the pressing. Presses of various types (horizontal, vertical) can be used as pressing moulds and are applied throughout a period of 4 to 12 hours.
The pressing in moulds gives the cheese firmness, which allows it to preserve its structure in subsequent operations.
Salting is done by introducing the cheeses in a brine, or sprinkling them with very fine salt. The purpose of this operation is to regulate the microbial development, to drain the cheese, to strip it of a certain amount of water and to favour the formation of the bark that protects it from external agents.
The rennet and the original microorganisms of the milk, or those added during the manufacturing process, under certain conditions of humidity and temperature, act on proteins and lipids, which provides over time the characteristic aroma, flavour and texture of the cheeses.
Industrially, the maturation takes place in chambers for a minimum of 60 days, at a temperature of 8ºC and frequent turnovers of the cheeses. As maturation proceeds, moisture must be increased and the temperature decreased.
The Manchego Cheese is a fatty cheese, made exclusively with sheep milk of the Manchego breed and with a minimum maturation of 60 days. The milk can be raw or pasteurized. In the case that it is made with raw milk coming from the cheesemaker’s farm and/ or from farms located in municipal boundaries bordering the place of manufacture, the cheese is called artisan.
the POD Manchego cheese carries a casein plate, at the bottom and embedded in its bark, as well as a small back label stamped on its packaging, with the regulator’s anagram and a serial number.
At the end of its maturation the cheese will present the following physical characteristics:
Form: cylindrical, with sensibly flat faces.
Height: between 7 and 12 cm.
Diameter: between 9 and 22 cm.
Weight: between 1 and 3.5 Kg.
Bark: hard, pale yellow or greenish-blackish. The bark presents the impressions of the moulds or “pleitas” on the lateral surface and of the “flower” on the flat faces.
Paste: Firm and compact, of variable colour, from white to ivory-yellowish, which may have small eyes unevenly distributed. Characteristic aroma and flavour.