Valdeon – Spanish Blue Cheese wrapped in Leaves

Valdeon Blue Cheese – Spain

I found Valdeon cheese at the Alex Farms Cheese Stand in the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, Canada.

Valdeon Blue Cheese

Valdeon Blue Cheese

Valdeon Blue Cheese

Valdeon Blue Cheese from Spain

Valdeon is made from a mixture of pasteurized cow’s milk (80%) and goat’s milk (20%). It comes from the small municipality of Posada de Valdeón in the Northern Province of Leon in Spain.

Posada de Valdeón in the Province of Leon, Spain

Posada de Valdeón in the Province of Leon, Spain

The milk from the animals in this region is of a very high quality due to the fertile green pastures found in the valley. High quality milk makes high quality cheese. Penicillium roqueforti is the mold responsible for the dominant flavor of this cheese.

One of the unique features of Valdeon is that it is wrapped in Sycamore leaves while it ages for 45 to 60 days. The leaves help the cheese maintain moisture as well as imparting a special earthy characteristic.

Valdeon Cheese Leaves

Valdeon Cheese Leaves

I assumed that I should not eat the leaves, so I removed them. Even with the leaves removed Valdeon is still a good looking cheese.

Valdeon Cheese with Leaves Removed

Valdeon Cheese with the Sycamore leaves removed

Valdeón was named the best blue cheese in a 2003 national competition in Spain.

What does Valdeon Cheese taste like? It is rich and creamy, a tad spicy and fairly salty. It has a taste that sticks around on the palette. The salty start dissolves into a rich earthy taste that sticks around for a long finish. This is a complex and powerful cheese. The sweet of the milk spars with the sting of the blue mold. This is a cheese you can roll around in your mouth for a while because it stays interesting. There is a lot going on.

Valdeon Blue Cheese Up Close

Valdeon Blue Cheese Up Close

Not only does it taste good but this cheese is attractive … very attractive. I might even go so far as to say it’s beautiful and artsy. Yeah that’s it … cheese art.

Valdeon Blue Cheese

Valdeon Blue Cheese

This cheese should pair well with wines made from the Gamay grape, such as Beaujolais, as well as Muscats. It would also marry well with a Port wine.

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Zamorano Cheese From Spain

Zamorano Cheese

Spanish Zamorano Cheese

Recently I made a visit to my neighbourhood cheese store – Goat Inc. in Port Credit (Ontario). The store’s cheesemonger, Joe Ambrus, suggested I try some Zamorano. I thought that was a very sexy name for a cheese. It just rolls off the tongue and can be pronounced with bravado. It made me think of Zorro.

Zorro

Zorro

Zorro was a fictional character that defended the people of California during the Spanish colonial era against tyrannical officials and other villains. I imagine that his relatives, back in Spain, probably sent him Zamorano cheese as a reward for his heroism.

But I digress, enough about Zorro. Let’s explore this cheese.

Zamorano is a sheep’s milk cheese originating from the Province of Zamora in Spain. It is produced from the milk of Churra and Castellana sheep.

Churra Sheep

Churra Sheep - Image by Fernando Garcia, Madrid

The Zamorano cheese is a hard cheese with a beautiful rind.

Zamorano Cheese Rind

Zamorano Cheese Rind

For 6 months, while it ages, the cheese is bathed in olive oil and turned. The repeated washing leaves the textured rind with a beautiful glossy finish. The rind is edible and it tastes as good as it looks.

What does Zamorano cheese taste like? It is nutty, salty, buttery, and sweet with a flavour that lingers on the tongue. It is a little bolder than Manchego (another popular Spanish cheese that I have had, but not yet reviewed). My wife said it reminded her a little of Piave. My son liked it at first. When I told him it was sheep’s milk he twisted his face as if he had just been tricked. After a minute, he thought it through and asked for another piece. He said sheep’s milk cheese was better tasting than he expected.

For me, Zamorano is tasty but not a stand alone cheese. I think this one needs complimented with a good wine, fruit or cured meat pairing. It would be good on a cheese plate simply because the rind is gorgeous, it is from Spain, it is made from sheep’s milk … alas, it is interesting. The flavour is centered enough that I expect most people would like this. It is a safe bet.

When I serve it I think I’ll carve a “Z” on top and tell everybody it was Zorro’s favourite cheese … why not?