The Cheeses of Spain
When I talk about Spanish cheese in my workshops, I often ask 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 many Spanish cheeses is that it 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 in this recipe, 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.