Cheese · Cheesemaking

Slacker Manchego

IMG_0611_1

I admit it.  I cut into this much sooner than I’d originally planned.

I made this Manchego on January 28th – not even a full five weeks ago.  Now, there’s no official aging time with Manchego.  You can leave it for a week and eat it really young, or age it for 3 weeks, 6 months, or longer.  I had kind of intended to let this one age for at least a few months.

But what with being away for a bunch of days, and then being sick for most of last week, I just don’t have any food posts for you.  And telling you I ate oatmeal with coconut, banana, raisins and almonds for breakfast just isn’t all that exciting.  Is it?  Of course not.

So tonight, since Bill had already got dinner under way, I figured I’d cut into the Manchego and see what was going on.

Turns out, yummy cheese was going on.

IMG_0609_1 

Oh, and by the way, this cheese also hasn’t been aging in optimal conditions.  It’s supposed to age at around 50-55 degrees F, with maybe 85% humidity or something.

Mine’s been sitting in my pantry, which, if nothing else, has been at a consistent temperature all this time.  But it’s a consistent 60 degrees F.  Yes.  A bit on the warmer-than-it’s-supposed-to-be side.

But, when I made this, our chest freezer (which can be temperature regulated so as to hold at any temperature, including proper cheese-aging temps), was either half full of frozen food, or it had somehow gotten warm and was half full of not-frozen-any-more-food.  Or it had been emptied out.  I don’t remember which stage it was at, but the cheese couldn’t have aged in there regardless.

So into the pantry it went.

I flipped it over daily, and painted it with olive oil a few times to keep it from completely drying out.  But – another confession – I wasn’t all that concerned with it.

I’m a bad cheese nurturer.

I admit it.  I’m getting help.  I’ll do better next time.

Anyway, after a moment of debate – cut a wedge out or just cut the thing in half – I went the easy route and sliced right down the center.

The rind made a dry, crusty, rind-y sound as I sawed my way through.

I thought it sounded cool.

IMG_0610_1

One half stayed in one piece,

IMG_0613_1

while the other one kind of broke apart.

I kept the broken-off piece out, wrapped the rest of it in parchment and popped that into the fridge.

I shared samples of the cheese with Bill and Julia (Alex has a hideous sore throat and wasn’t interested), and we all agreed it was very yummy.

It’s sort of cheddary and dry, but not sharp at all (no surprise, since it wasn’t really aged much), with a creamy, luscious mouthfeel as it warmed. 

So – yummy to nibble on.  Yay!

After that success, I was curious to see how it would melt.  I don’t know why, now that I think about it.  I don’t normally melt manchego anyway.  Why would it matter how this one melted?  I’m thinking I was temporarily insane and confused Manchego with Monterey Jack.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, I broke up a piece of Manchego, placed it on a tortilla chip (okay, really a broken-off stale piece of a taco shell), put that on a plate, nuked it for about fifteen seconds, and – woah!  What the heck happened?

Here’s the visual…

Bits of Manchego on part of a stale taco shell:

IMG_0620_1

A closer look at those same bits of cheese:

IMG_0621_1

Tick, tick, tick…fifteen seconds later: 

IMG_0623_1

Huh?

A very necessary closer look, because the cheese now looks like a cross between popcorn and cauliflower.

IMG_0624_1

So now you know – this is what Manchego does in the microwave.  Or, more specifically, this is what MY manchego does in the microwave.

IMG_0625_1

It gets all puffed up.

Cool!

IMG_0625_1_1

And then I took a bite.

I blew on it first, because I didn’t want a burst of steam inside the goopy cheese to burn the roof of my mouth.  I hate that. 

But…it didn’t happen.

There was no steam inside.

There was no goopy cheese, either.

I told Bill to come over and touch it.

He poked the biggest lump of cheese.

Here’s what it looked like next:

IMG_0630_1

It was crunchy! 

Puffed up, dried out, and crunchy!

It was like a meringue!

A dry Manchego meringue!

I’m thinking it might make for an interesting appetizer the next time we have people over for dinner.

IMG_0612_1_1

Mmmm….cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeese.

6 thoughts on “Slacker Manchego

  1. I think this whole post just proves that we define our own success! It looks yummy and your description makes me crave some!

  2. andrea,

    I understand your qualms.

    I got the recipe out of Ricki Carrolls book Home Cheese Making, and perhaps the more accurate way to refer to this cheese is that its made in the style or method of original, traditional Manchego.

  3. Troll much? Titling the post “Homemade sheep’s milk cheese made in the style of traditional Manchego” is wordy and annoying. Maybe the blog owner knew the requirements of Manchego classification, maybe not. Either way, I’m dang impressed she was able to hold out for four weeks (as opposed to the minimum of 60 days, per “Manchego” requirements.) I’m so glad you’ve proved your superiority by calling out someone on their own blog. Good for you.

    The cheese looks fabulous! I want to get into doing aged cheeses but I don’t know if I have the patience.

  4. Shouldn’t that be SLACKER homemade sheep’s milk cheese made in the style of traditional Manchego. Get it right people….

  5. I’m making this same recipe from Carroll’s book right now (last night in fact — Exhaustion!). Do you happen to know whether the ‘aging’ keeps going once you cut it open? Since this particular cheese can age for weeks, months, or even a year… can I sample it in a few weeks and then let the rest ‘age’ for longer…or does that not work and once it’s cut, it’s done?

  6. I think as long as you keep the cut side coated with oil like you do the rest of the rind, it should keep aging. I know you can do that with wax-coated cheeses.

Leave a Reply