Menorquina cow cheese

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Menorquina cow cheese

Formatge de vaqua menorquina

Fresh or aged cheese, made in Minorca island with raw milk from the local breed of Menorquina cow, whose population is reduced and in danger of extinction. Since the second millennium BC there are reports of the existence of cattle in Minorca. The Talaiótica culture was based on cattle ranching which is evidenced by the bones of cattle that have been found in excavations of several talaiots buildings. Since then, Menorca has been under the influence of different cultures, such as the Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Muslim, British, French, Catalan and so on. All of them kept the cattle ranching activity. The red or Menorquina cow is a rustic breed, strong, with calm temperament and great maternal instinct. The animals in most cases do not have horns and are reddish, with variations of intensity ranging from clear blond to dark reddish. The males often have more intense colours. The average weight of adult females is about 500 kg and 900 Kg for males. The cows receive only natural pastures for feeding, so fertilizers and irrigation are not necessary to produce their food.  This is a minority breed and in danger of extinction; its census is not greater than five hundred heads. Menorquina cow cheese is medium sized, with slight variations depending on the producer. It has a very distinctive taste, attributed to the use of a very high fat milk and to the type of grass the cows eat, usually ‘Zulla’ (Hedysarum coronarium). Two producers, both certified as organic, currently produce this cheese. Other ranchers are in the process of conversion. The cheese-making process is very simple. The base is the raw milk from two milkings a day. It is heated to 32°C and organic animal rennet is added, leaving it to curdle for half an hour. The curd is cut and shaped using a traditional cotton cloth or ‘fogasser,’ which gives it its characteristic shape. It is then pressed, at first manually and then using a weight for about eight hours, and then it’s salted. Curing is done in a cool place for approximately two months. To protect the cheese, the crust is smeared with a mixture based on olive oil. The cheese forms are square with rounded edges and are individually numbered. They are about 10-12 cm tall and are 25-30 cm in diameter. The weight varies between 1 and 3 kg.

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