Mahon is a soft to hard white cheese that comes from the Mediterranean coast of Spain. It is also known as Mahón in Spanish, Mô in the local dialects of Spain, and Maó in Catalan. The cheese gets its name from the port city of Mahón, in Minorca, Spain. Minorca is the largest exporter of the cheese and holds one of the best dairy farms in the European region. The cheese has a unique aging life which can vary from three weeks to two years or even longer. The cheese has a sharp buttery, slightly salty, and light aromatic flavors like -sweet and nutty flavors to it. Though it has a sweet and fruity flavor, it also holds a light salty taste due to the sea salt content in the grass given to the cattle. The cheese has an orange color rind, since the cheese is generally rubbed with oil or butter, and paprika. The maturity period of the cheese is considered as 10 months and by that period the cheese gets some misshapen holes and granularity. A proliferation of tiny holes can be seen in most of the aged Mahon. The young cheese is known as Artesano Mahón or Artisanal Mahón, which is aged not more than three months. It has a softer texture compared to the aged traditional cheese. Artesano Mahón is to be kept refrigerated or cooled and has to be stored in an air tight jar to preserve the softness in its texture. The aged form of cheese has to be stored in a foil or waxed paper.
History of Mahon Cheese
The origin of the cheese is associated with the ‘los recogedores-afinadores’ or the gatherer-ripeners class who lived in the island of Minorca. The class use to trade and distribute farm products, utensils, seeds, and food, in return they received cheeses from the households. They stored the Mahon in a unique technique; the cheese was stored in underground caves for the aging process. The class managed to control the temperature, the winds, etc for the cheese production. This unique method resulted in the traditional preparation of the cheese.
Culinary Uses of Mahon Cheese
It is used in various Spanish cuisines and is considered as one of most appetizing cheese in the Spanish gastronomy. Due to the creamy texture of the cheese, it is often served with pasta, potato, rice, and vegetable dishes. Mahon is traditionally served as sliced cheese along with olive oil, tarragon, and black pepper. The cheese is also used as a part of various other processed cheeses.
Variations of Mahon Cheeses
Depending on the aging process of the cheese, it can be divided into various categories - Mild Mahón, Medium cured Mahón, Cured Mahón, and Mature Mahón. The Mild form is soft and white in color and has the highest percentage of moisture. It has a slightly salted and acidic flavor. Medium cured cheese has oily and yellowish ivory color with a smooth texture. Cured ones have hard and firm texture with a dark yellow color. It has a salty to spicy flavor. Mature Mahón has a yellow color with a dark color rind. It has dry appearance with an intense and spicy flavor.