World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Mahón from Spain.
Country: Spain 🇪🇸
Made from: Cow’s milk
Pasteurised: Yes and no
Texture: Crumbly, semi-hard, dense
Taste: Buttery, salty, sharp
Aging: 2 – 10 months
Mahón is a traditional semi-hard cheese, produced from cow's milk on Menorca, the outermost of the three Balearic Islands. The city of Mahón is the major town on this small agricultural island.
Traditional Mahón cheese is formed in a cheese cloth. The corners of the cloth are knotted and twisted together, which gives the cheese its typical "cushion" shape. Also known as 'Minorcan' cheese, it is made on the Balearic Islands with raw or pasteurised cow's milk from the Frisian, 'Mahonesa' or 'Minorcan', and/or the Alpine Brown breeds. Small amounts (no more than 5%) of sheep's milk from the 'Minorcan' breed are also allowed. It is rectangular, with rounded edges and a cleft on the top left by the knot of the cloth used as a mould.
The cheese is medium to large, tall, and weighs up to 5 kilos. The rind is smooth and closed, and its colour varies between ivory white and intense yellow. It has a characteristic flavour, slightly acid, salty and a bit buttery. Depending on its ageing, it can be milky and moist when it is fresh, or dry, sharp and somewhat spicy as the ageing time is lengthened.
Depending on the production method, there are two types of cheese: Mahón Artesano, made with raw milk, and Mahón, made in industrial cheese shops.
Also, depending on the ageing, there are:
Mild Mahón: Soft, easy to cut, white in colour, high percentage of moisture. Gentle, lightly salted and acidic flavor
Medium cured Mahón: Oily and yellowish ivory in colour. It is easy to cut, with the surface remaining smooth, intact and shiny. The flavour is more intense, although it maintains a hint of butteriness. Its maturing period is less than 150 days.
Cured Mahón: With a firm texture, it is a very hard cheese that crumbles when cut. Its colour is dark yellow and its flavour salty, with something of a spicy touch. The maturing period is above 150 days.
Mature Mahón: With a dark coloured rind and dry appearance. The colour of the cheese is yellowish and its flavour very intense and spicy.
Mahón received the Denominación de Origen certification in 1985.
Nearly a century ago, the gatherer-ripeners were said to have emerged as a class of island society in Menorca. Their work consisted of trading and distributing farm products, seeds, utensils, foods, etc. In exchange they would receive fresh cheeses that the farmers brought to their houses. In order to store them, the recogedores had underground caves for the careful aging of the cheeses. They controlled everything in production, from the temperature level to the correct handling of the product. In so doing, they obtained the original cheese from Mahón; soft, aired or cured, that they would then sell in markets of the islands and the peninsula. Their careful techniques made the Mahón cheese famous, and helped to make it a sought-after export.
How to enjoy it
Mahón is best enjoyed in the traditional way, sliced, then sprinkled with olive oil, black pepper, and tarragon. It is also delicious melted on toast. It pairs well with Madeira or Rioja.
Source: Wikipedia, cheese.com, tienda.com, spainrecipes.com, Decanter