Thursday, 21 June 2012

Cheese of Ibiza

A recent stay on Formentera provided an opportunity to get to know some Ibiza cheese.

Apart from manchego, I've not been impressed by Spanish cheese - it's often rather undistinguished, a pretty plasticky texture and not a lot of taste. And it always seems to be wrapped in weapons-grade armour-plated thick plastic, which requires a heavy-duty knife to remove - any French cheesemaker would be appalled by the hermetic barrier which prevents the cheese ever becoming mature.

This Ibicenc cheese comes in the standard plastic integument, but it also comes in a number of varieties, the one I chose being encrusted with thyme leaves. (So at least that takes care of the flavour, I hope.)

The cheese is a mixture of sheep and goat milk (cabra e ovella - it's labelled in Catalan, not Spanish), slightly saltier than I'm used to with most cheeses. The texture is not particularly endearing - very firm, but not at all crumbly. And there's not a lot of aroma, nor creaminess in the taste. I'd have to say it's a five out of ten cheese.

The thyme is the making of it. It's very much a traditional flavour of the islands - wild thyme grows all over Formentera and Ibiza, its bushes forming huge mounds of purple when it flowers in the summer. It has a dryness that cuts into the saltiness of the cheese and really lifts the flavour. A slice of the cheese is good on its own - never mind bread or crackers.

I wonder if the cheese will be better with a bit of age... so I'm deliberately leaving it aside for a while, and I'll revisit it when it's had a chance to breathe.

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