I admit it. I cut into this much sooner than I’d originally planned.
I made this Manchego on January 28th – not even a full five weeks ago. Now, there’s no official aging time with Manchego. You can leave it for a week and eat it really young, or age it for 3 weeks, 6 months, or longer. I had kind of intended to let this one age for at least a few months.
But what with being away for a bunch of days, and then being sick for most of last week, I just don’t have any food posts for you. And telling you I ate oatmeal with coconut, banana, raisins and almonds for breakfast just isn’t all that exciting. Is it? Of course not.
So tonight, since Bill had already got dinner under way, I figured I’d cut into the Manchego and see what was going on.
Turns out, yummy cheese was going on.
Oh, and by the way, this cheese also hasn’t been aging in optimal conditions. It’s supposed to age at around 50-55 degrees F, with maybe 85% humidity or something.
Mine’s been sitting in my pantry, which, if nothing else, has been at a consistent temperature all this time. But it’s a consistent 60 degrees F. Yes. A bit on the warmer-than-it’s-supposed-to-be side.
But, when I made this, our chest freezer (which can be temperature regulated so as to hold at any temperature, including proper cheese-aging temps), was either half full of frozen food, or it had somehow gotten warm and was half full of not-frozen-any-more-food. Or it had been emptied out. I don’t remember which stage it was at, but the cheese couldn’t have aged in there regardless.
So into the pantry it went.
I flipped it over daily, and painted it with olive oil a few times to keep it from completely drying out. But – another confession – I wasn’t all that concerned with it.
I’m a bad cheese nurturer.
I admit it. I’m getting help. I’ll do better next time.
Anyway, after a moment of debate – cut a wedge out or just cut the thing in half – I went the easy route and sliced right down the center.
The rind made a dry, crusty, rind-y sound as I sawed my way through.
I thought it sounded cool.
One half stayed in one piece,
while the other one kind of broke apart.
I kept the broken-off piece out, wrapped the rest of it in parchment and popped that into the fridge.
I shared samples of the cheese with Bill and Julia (Alex has a hideous sore throat and wasn’t interested), and we all agreed it was very yummy.
It’s sort of cheddary and dry, but not sharp at all (no surprise, since it wasn’t really aged much), with a creamy, luscious mouthfeel as it warmed.
So – yummy to nibble on. Yay!
After that success, I was curious to see how it would melt. I don’t know why, now that I think about it. I don’t normally melt manchego anyway. Why would it matter how this one melted? I’m thinking I was temporarily insane and confused Manchego with Monterey Jack. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Anyway, I broke up a piece of Manchego, placed it on a tortilla chip (okay, really a broken-off stale piece of a taco shell), put that on a plate, nuked it for about fifteen seconds, and – woah! What the heck happened?
Here’s the visual…
Bits of Manchego on part of a stale taco shell:
A closer look at those same bits of cheese:
Tick, tick, tick…fifteen seconds later:
A very necessary closer look, because the cheese now looks like a cross between popcorn and cauliflower.
So now you know – this is what Manchego does in the microwave. Or, more specifically, this is what MY manchego does in the microwave.
It gets all puffed up.
And then I took a bite.
I blew on it first, because I didn’t want a burst of steam inside the goopy cheese to burn the roof of my mouth. I hate that.
But…it didn’t happen.
There was no steam inside.
There was no goopy cheese, either.
I told Bill to come over and touch it.
He poked the biggest lump of cheese.
Here’s what it looked like next:
It was crunchy!
Puffed up, dried out, and crunchy!
It was like a meringue!
A dry Manchego meringue!
I’m thinking it might make for an interesting appetizer the next time we have people over for dinner.