Day 45-Iberico

I’m quite excited about today’s cheese, although after yesterday’s Old Amsterdam, it’s going to take quite a lot to really wow me!  My next three cheeses are actually a threesome of sorts: Iberico, Cabra al Vino and Manchego.  No, not that sort of threesome, sillies, a cheese threesome sold together as a trio in a tasting tapas platter from Trader Joe’s.  It’s a great pity that we don’t have Trader Joe’s here in Canada.  It’s like Whole Foods, only kind of affordable-for those of you who don’t know.  It is, however, just over the border and has some great prices on interesting cheeses, including this little grouping.

Now I have to admit that I had never heard of any of these cheeses.  In fact, I didn’t even know there were Spanish cheeses.  It’s not something that leaps to mind when you think of Spanish things like, um, Spanish Fly, or something like that.  However, I suppose I knew there were Spanish horses, and thus, Spanish cows, which would make Spanish milk, and so of course, there’s cheese, and here it is, nicely packaged up.  Well, it turns out, once again, that I am terribly ignorant when it comes to cheese.  Cheese making and cheese history is a serious affair in Spain.  Although only 13 main cheeses hold reign over this country-unlike France, with its hundreds of cheeses. Spanish cheese is eaten daily as part of tapas, or small sampling type snack meals.

Evidently cheese making was introduced to the Spanish by the Romans around 200 BC, although there is archaeological evidence of even older cheese making happening in this region.  Most historic Spanish cheeses were goat milk based, although that’s not the case now. Iberico is actually yet another threesome itself- a milk threesome!  It’s a semi-hard cheese made of pasteurized cow, sheep and goats milk mixed.  Wow, threesome is the cheese word of the day!  Interestingly the combination of these three milks varies seasonally depending on the quality and quantity of milk available-which is kind of crazy, if you think of it.  You know how they say you can’t step in the same river twice.  Can you eat the same Iberico twice?  There are some guidelines though, a minimum of cow milk 50%, goat milk 30% and sheep milk 10%  Some folks feel that the higher the content of the sheep’s’ milk the better the cheese, due to its fat content.

I’m not sure if this is a DOP cheese yet,  that stands for –Denominazione d’Origine Protetta- which means the cheese is guaranteed authentic. It looks like it may be any day, some sites claiming it is, and others saying it is almost.  Since it’s in the running for DOP any Iberico cheese you find will be from Spain, will be made of a mix of three cheeses, and will be aged a minimum of two months.  It’s also covered with an inedible black plastic rind with a “basket weave” pattern that’s supposed to mimic the baskets the cheese was cured in in  the olden days- a vestigial basket pattern.  Weird.

My little slice of Iberico has a black plastic basket weave shaped rind.  The paste is pale white with many small holes (eyes). The cheese is very firm, and has only softened slightly. The smell is very faint, almost scent free.  It’s a quiet, unassuming little cheese.

Here goes…

Hmmm, it’s a complex combination of flavours, more intense than I had expected, but still pretty mellow.  You can really taste that goat, but not in an overly raunchy way, more like a happy friendly little barnyard way.  It’s really smooth and melts quickly, the texture is great, chewy, yet yielding. It’s a toothsome cheese, and not scary in the least.  This would be a good starter cheese for someone wanting to try goat and sheep, the mixture is pretty mild and chilled out.  Melted it’s quite lovely, you lose all the goat and sheep notes, and it’s just gooey goodness.  Kind of interesting, but kind of boring.  All in all, quite a bland and forgettable cheese, nothing to write home about, I’m afraid.

Iberico, I give you a 3 out of 5, that’s a 3 for having three kinds of milk and being presented in a group of 3.