Let’s not leave Spain quite so fast, shall we? Last post, we traveled to La Mancha where Manchega sheep graze on dry, rocky plains and produce milk for classic Manchego cheese. In this post, we’re traveling northwest-ward a bit, to Ávila in the Castile y León region where the new, but critically-acclaimed Monte Enebro is produced.
Monte Enebro is the brainchild of former cheese hobbiest turned professional cheesemaker, Rafael Báez. Since its birth in the 1980’s, Monte Enebro has swiftly risen up the ranks of the world’s best cheeses, making its way onto the radar of chefs, food critics and cheese buyers alike. In 2003, it received the first-place award for “Best Goat Cheeses” by Gourmet Cheeses and in 2007 it took the top prize again, this time for being the “Best Spanish Cheese,” awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture. Not to mention it’s taken home Gold in the World Cheese Awards a handful of times. In total, it’s a nine-time award-winning cheese!
With very high quality, pasteurized goat’s milk, Báez ages this soft goat cheese for one to two months. He coats it in a mold called penicillium roqueforti, the same mold that, as you may have guessed, is used in the making of the classic, French blue cheese, Roquefort. However instead of piercing it into the cheese as one does when producing Roquefort to give it its blue veins, Báez only rubs it on the cheese’s surface, imparting on its rind a blue/green/grey hue.
Procuring and Tasting Monte Enebro:
Shape-wise, Monte Enebro comes in the format of a log. Most (if not all?) cheese shops will cut it for you by the piece, meaning you can choose how much or how little you spend. At approximately $30/lb, this is a wonderful perk.
The Monte Enebro has a custardy cream line directly beneath the rind. The inner paste is chalky, dry and crumbly, like how most people think of goat cheese. The rind, I’m guessing due to the penicillium roqueforti, tastes piquant and peppery. The paste is goat-y, giving off that typical metallic and tart tang. Its flavor is vibrant and unlike most soft, pasteurized goat cheeses you’ve probably had.
Cooking with Monte Enebro:
Remember that salad I mentioned in my post on Bonaparte? Well, I decided to execute this recipe, substituting some ingredients with others that I though better suited the bite that Monte Enebro offers. I tossed semi-melted Monte Enebro on bread on top of a salad with spinach, red bell peppers and cucumbers. For a dressing, I used some left over Quince Paste to make a Quince vinaigrette. Delicioso!
I paired what was left of my log with a Spanish wine called Marionette. It was a blend of Monastrell and Syrah grapes. I was honestly not too crazy about the wine. It tasted very harsh and alcoholic to me. However, it was peppery, just like the cheese, which enhanced the spice of the Monte Enebro, and mellowed its metallic taste.