Manchego can be made with sheep or cow’s milk. It’s a very flavorful cheese with a fairly simple cheesemaking process. It’s covered with an inedible rind that has a lot of character on it and is extremely flexible when it comes to the aging process. Manchego cheese can be aged anywhere from as little as 3-12 weeks up until a 1 year or longer. However, it should be consumed within a month of making it or left to age for up to 2 years.
Manchego is a fairly mellow cheese, but the longer it ages, the richer it will become. There are three different aging periods of Manchego cheese, Semi Curado Cheese, Curado, and Viegjo. Semi Curado is when the cheese has only aged between 1-3 months. It has a fruity and hay flavor to it. Curado has been aged for 6 months or more and has a caramel and nutty flavor as well as a more acidic taste. Lastly, Viegjo has been aged for 1 to 2 years and is much richer and sweeter as the other aging stages.
Manchego is a great replacement for Cheddar cheese and pairs nicely with more complex dishes including lamb, ham and peppers, and various sauces and desserts. That being said, with its flavor, it is just as nice on some crackers and a glass of wine.
Aging: 3 Weeks to 1 Year or More
Skill Level: Intermediate
- 2 gallons of whole sheep’s milk
- 1/2 tsp of Thermophilic Culture
- 1/2 tsp Mesophilic Culture
- 1/2 tsp of Lipase Powder which has been dissolved in a half cup of water
- 1/2 tsp of Rennet thinned in 1/4 cup of water
- Non-iodized cheese salt to make brine
Heat the Milk & Add Culture
- Heat your milk up. When it reaches 86°F you can start to add your cultures in and stir
- You can do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this step on the stove, be sure to slowly heat the milk and stir to avoid burning.
- Cover and allow it to ripen for 45 minutes
- After ripening for 45 minutes, you can add the Lipase and your diluted Rennet
- Allow it to rest for an additional 30 to 45 minutes or until you have a clean break
Cut the Curd
- After resting, your curd should be ready to be cut, if not, allow it to sit for longer
- Cut the curd into 1/2-inch cube size pieces
- Allow it to rest for 10 minutes
- Carefully stir the curds with a whisk to continue cutting down the curd some more. The curds should appear a little larger than a grain of rice.
Heat the Curds
- Slowly heat the curds until they reach a temperature of about 104 °F
- This process should take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes and should be done very gradually as it makes the cheese moister.
- Stir regularly every 5 minutes during the scalding phase
- Once the temperature is reached, allow the curds to settle for 10 minutes.
Drain the Curds
- Drain all of the whey
- Immediately place curds into a clean cloth-lined mold. Be careful to not break the curds
Mold & Press the Cheese
- Press the curds at 15 lbs. for 30 minutes.
- Remove, flip and rewrap the curds
- Repeat the previous steps again for 15 lbs.
- Continue to press at 30 lbs. for overnight or at least 8 hours
- Remove and unwrap the cheese
Brining and Aging
- Soak the cheese in saturated brine for at least 6 hours, turning over your cheese every hour to ensure even coverage
- Remove and dry
- Air dry your cheese at 50°F for a week or until it’s dry on the surface.
- Cover the surface with coconut or olive oil.
Storing the Cheese
- It is best to store the cheese on a wooden tray and wrap it with clean waxed paper.
- Manchego cheese is very easy to store. Either place it in your fridge or in an area that is no warmer than 68°F.
It can last up to 6 months in the freezer and 3 to 4 weeks in the refrigerator