Ibores: a cheese from Spain


One of my all time favorite cheeses of Spain comes from the far west of the country and, until recently, perhaps on of the least known parts of Spain.

The cheese....."Ibores"!

The region it comes from is the land of extremes,
as noted by the name, "Extremadura"!

This is a region of hot, dry summers; cold winters, and mountain ranges separated by vast flat plains, where little grows beyond low grasses and cork oaks. Much of the area, not being suited for crops, instead provides a home for herds of sheep and goats, which supply some truly unique cheeses from the region, and the foraging pigs that make up the famous Iberian hams.



A Bit of History:

When I speak of Spanish cheese in my workshops here, I often ask the participants to name 3 Spanish cheeses. "Manchego" is the quick response, and then the group usually goes quiet.
This is primarily due to the lack of cheese being exported from Spain and a direct result of the failed leadership of Francisco Franco in Spain for almost 40 years.
During this period many of the cheeses typical to small regions were outlawed in favor of large commercial cheese factories. Fortunately, many of the rural cheese makers ignored this edict and continued making and selling cheese in their local "underground", but none traveled or were exported.

The map shown to the right is a good example of the diversity of these Spanish cheeses that survived this period. Today we are beginning to see more of these cheeses being introduced to the world marketplace and this is a very good thing!

The one positive thing about this limiting production of the many Spanish cheeses is that it has preserved some of the historical cheeses from becoming overly industrialized and losing their traditional character. When the ban on making these cheeses was lifted, one by one those that remembered the details of how they were made came forth and revived the traditional cheese as they best remembered them.

This is the case in the area we focus on this month, Extremadura.
Located in the far west of Spain, tight against the border of Portugal, Extremadura remains a land of herdsmen.
It is a vast expanse of scrubby, semi-cleared forests of holmoak, cork oak, pine and beech and is known as the 'Dehesa'.
This wild, often communal, pasture land provides the ideal grazing conditions for sheep and goats, both of which provide milk for a range of outstanding regional cheeses.


This months feature cheese is one of these, Ibores!!

Ibores production has always been linked to the goatherds of the area being able to take advantage of the natural conditions of the region, sparsely populated and mostly mountainous. Many aromatic plants, all interspersed with oaks and chestnuts, available to the goats, produce a very aromatic and delicious milk for the making of the Ibores cheese.


Ibores: A Very Unique Style

Ibores is a full fat cheese made from goat milk. The local stock of Serrana, Verata, and Retinta goats are well adapted to the region and thought to be introduced by the Moors centuries ago when they occupied much of Spain.

The cheese is traditional pressed cheese and of medium moisture, with a ripening time of 3-4 months or longer.

Traditionally, the cheese was made with no added culture, working only with the natural bacteria of the milk and milking environment. However, due to fermentation problems over the years, many producers have switched to using prepared cultures to improve the success of this cheese. Unfortunately, some folks with long taste memories have begun to notice a drift in flavor and aroma from this change in process.

The most unique quality of the cheese is the orange-red rind due to the coating of the surface with the local smoked paprika and the olive oil, both of which are produced in the area.

The flavor and aroma of this smoky paprika blends well with the bright supple character of the cheese. Over the time that the cheese spends in the aging room, this flavor permeates the cheese.
It is a truly wonderful way to finish the cheese.

A Recipe for making a cheese
in the style of Ibores:


Before you Begin:

You will need:

  • 3 gallon of fresh goat milk
  • 1/16 tsp  of our MA4002 culture
  • Liquid Rennet (1-1.25 ml or about 1/4 tsp )
  • Salt or made up Brine
  • A good thermometer
  • A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds with.
  • Molds Stainless-6inch
  • Butter muslin to line the mold for draining in the press.
  • Drying mats to allow the cheese to allow air to circulate during aging.
  • A Cheese Press or weights to apply sufficient weight for consolidation of the curds.
  • Spanish Smoked Paprika and Olive Oil
    for coating the rind (the smoke is very important)
  • Calcium Chloride for pasteurized cold stored milk

Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.


Acidifying and heating the milk:

Begin by heating the 3 gallons of milk to 86°F (30°C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of 120-140°F water. As the milk reaches the target temperature, add cool water to the hot water until the water bath is about 2-3°F above the target temperature. If you do this in a pot on the stove, make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats

Once the milk is at 86°F the culture can be added. Add 1/16 tsp of the MA 4002 culture. This is a combo of a Mesophilic strain, which will lead the conversion of lactose to lactic acid, and a Thermophilic strain that will produce minimal acid development but will shine in the aging room to develop the supple texture of the final cheese.

To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps, sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.

Then allow the warm milk to rest quiet for 60 minutes while the culture revives and begins to ripen and produce a small amount of acid. Keep warm during this time.


Coagulation with rennet:

When the milk has ripened, add about 1-1.25ml (~1/4 tsp) of single strength liquid rennet.

The milk now needs to sit quiet for 60 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. The milk will begin to thicken (flocculate) at about 15 minutes, but allow this to set for the full amount of time. The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.

To check for a good curd that is ready to cut, insert the flat of a knife into the curd at a 45 degree angle and lift slowly until the curd breaks. The edges of this break should be quite clean and the whey that rises should be clear and not cloudy (but not as clear as a white wine.)

While waiting for coagulation, make sure the mold and draining cloth are sanitized and ready in your draining area.


Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

When a nice firm curd has formed, the curd can be cut to about 1/4 inch pieces. Then allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. Do not allow the curds to mat together,  but give enough time for a good layer of whey to rise to the top. If they tend to mat, give it a gentle stir at about the five minute mark, then let it settle again.

I make this cut by:

  1. cutting large vertical crosscut with a long knife then allow to rest a few minutes for whey to rise and cuts to heal
  2. hen using a whisk with thin wires make the final 1/4 inch cuts

Drying out the curds :

Now it is time to begin drying out the curds. This will be done by bringing the heat slowly back to 86°F (30°C). The heating needs to be done slowly. The total cooking time will be 30 minutes and may be extended a few minutes if the curds are still soft.

The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.

The pictures above give a pretty good illustration of the evolution of the drying curds.

When this point is reached the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey.


Removing the Whey and Forming the Cheese:

The sanitized mold and drain cloth should be in place at this point and the dry curds are now ready to transfer to the mold. Begin by allowing the curds to settle to the bottom of the pot and then drain the whey down to about 1-2 inches above the curd mass.
The curds can then be given a good stir to separate them before transfer. The curd can then be transferred to the form along with the remaining whey. The whey tends to float the curds into position and minimize any mechanical holes. A good hand pressure will help to consolidate the curds.

Neatly fold the draining cloth on top of the curd mass and place the follower on top.

You are now ready for pressing the cheese.


Pressing:

For pressing, begin very light and slowly increase the press weight to a moderate level:

  • 60 minutes at 25 lbs.
  • 90 minutes at 50 lbs
  • 4 hours at 75 lbs

After the initial run of residual whey from the form, the rate of whey running off is simply a matter of drops and not a stream of whey being released. This is a good rate of whey removal during pressing and will slow even more as the residual free moisture is released. The form should show tears of whey weeping from the form very slowly. When this stops you can increase the weight slightly.

The cheese should be removed from the press, unwrapped, turned, re-wrapped, and put back to the press at the above intervals to assure an even consolidation.
At each turn you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.


Salting:

The pressed cheese should now have a nice smooth rind with no openings in the surface. Any cracks or openings will lead to problems with mold in the aging room

You should have a saturated brine prepared for salting this cheese.
You will find all of the details you need on brining here.
A simple brine formula is:
1 Gallon of water to which is added 2.25 Lbs of Salt, 1tbs. Calcium Chloride (30% solution), and 1 tsp. white vinegar.

The cheese now needs to be set in the brine for about 3 hours.
The cheese will float above the brine surface so sprinkle another teaspoon or 2 of salt on the top surface of the cheese.
Flip the cheese and re-salt the surface about half way through the brine period.
<<Note the salt on the surface of the cheese as well as the undissolved salt on the bottom of the brine pan.


Preparing the rind:

At the end of the brine bath, wipe the surface and allow the cheese to surface dry for a day or two before waxing. The surface will darken somewhat during this time and a white dry powdery surface will appear.

The next step is what makes this such a fabulous cheese!
This region of Spain is also known for the special Smoked Paprika that it produces and this, along with the local olive oil is used to prepare the rinds. This rind treatment does ward off the molds as well as produce a very wonderful aroma and flavor that slowly permeates the cheese.

  1. The cheese is brushed clean of any mold or loose surface powder to prepare a nice clean surface for the oil/paprika coating.
  2. I prepare the mix with just enough oil to make a thick paste/slurry to coat the cheese. Remember the Paprika is the key here for the flavor/aroma.
  3. The Cheese is the rubbed with the Paprika until it is well coated. In a day or so the oil will be absorbed into the cheese, leaving a dry Paprika coat on the outside.
  4. This treatment can be repeated as needed to remove any molds that try to grow and to add more Paprika for flavor.

Aging:

The cheese can then be placed into your aging space at 52-56°F and 80-85% moisture.
The cheese can be aged for 4-6 weeks and it will be ready for your table.




More Recipes

Jim Wallace
Nov 2014


Share With Friends:

You May Also Like: