I was lucky to have made a short trip to the States this year, for a two week break to visit family and friends. One of the things I planned way before I stepped on the plane out of this dusty desert is to assemble a box to send to myself while I was there in the U.S. I was envisioning a box of goodies and supplies that I usually can’t get here. High up on the list is cheese. In Kabul I didn’t mind having to put on a 20-lb. bullet-proof vest just so I can go to the next camp to raid the Euro deli for cheese, ham, and salami. What, I am a girl that has specific foodie priorities.
My sister took me to a Trader Joe’s near her place in Baltimore, and they had a very good selection of cheeses. We went a little crazy and brought several kinds (Manchego, Parmigiano Reggiano, some soft cheeses) to munch with pita crackers, Parma ham slices, grapes, and a nice red Lambrusco. The civilized world indeed has a lot of enticements!
In one of the refrigerated cases was an Iberico wedge, recognizable by the hatched rind and well, the label. Manchego cheese is more common in the Philippines, and I usually go for this cheese alongside a deli meats platter. But the Iberico had a really nice creamy color, with a dreamy milky smell, and so I wanted to try it. My taste buds were happy that I did. Que rico! The Iberico was a revelation to me — with its rich, very buttery taste that goes well with strong flavored sausages. There is also a mild tartness to it, a counterpoint to the richness. I could munch on this cheese all day.
I’ve since learned that Iberico cheese is made up of percentages of pasteurized milk from cows (50%), goats (30%), and sheep (10%). The remaining 10% could be water or other cheese components. Iberico is produced only in the province of Valladolid, in central Spain. It’s the sheep’s milk that delivers the buttery punch to this cheese. The Español typically serve it as a table cheese, so in deference I initially had my Iberico with pita crackers and slices of sopressata salami. As an experiment, I have since tried the Iberico nuked in the microwave as a melting cheese over bread, and it is delicious this way as well.
My drooling wish is to pair the Iberico’s creaminess with a glass (or two) of good red wine and paper-thin slices of jamon Serrano. That sounds like another trip, doesn’t it?