The Must-Have Cheese for your Summer Picnic

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Mahon, a port city on the island of Menorca, is the namesake for our cheese this week, Mahon Riserva. Menorca, the most remote of the three main Balearic Islands (Ibiza and Mallorca are the other two), has been a cattle farming island for centuries, which includes its long cheese-making history. There are over 600 dairy farms on the island, making it one of the largest Spanish milk producing regions. The island is home to one of the most respected dairy plants in all of Europe. Mahon has had a P.D.O. (protected designation of origin) since 1985, but has been made in the same traditional manner for much longer. The distribution of Mahon to the world began with local island inhabitants who became, starting over a century ago, the “traders” and affineurs of Mahon. They would barter agricultural equipment, seed, utensils and food for the young cheeses, then age them in local underground caves until ready for distribution to Mallorca and mainland Spain. Mahon Riserva is a raw milk cheese from the Friesian breed and the indigenous Menorquina breed, endangered, yet particularly suited for cheese production. The dairies are small and contribute to artisanal productions of hand-molded square cheeses wrapped in a cotton cloth, pressed, and hung by the four corners to begin curing. The Riserva is typically aged for 10-12 months, but can age longer. Finished cheeses are rubbed with paprika and olive oil, which softens the paste and mellows the sharpness. This cheese has buttery, nutty richness within a structure of salty, crystalline sharpness. It has a waxy, semi-granular chewy paste that carries the fruity, savory piquant bite nicely. The local method of eating Mahon is sliced and sprinkled with EVOO, black pepper and fresh tarragon….mmm…


By Susan Gaulke, Wally’s Cheesemonger