Red Majorcan sheep’s cheese

Ark of taste
Back to the archive >

Formatge d'ovella roja mallorquina

This is an aged cheese using raw milk from Red Majorcan sheep, a breed at risk of extinction. Sheep have been farmed since people came to settle on Majorca and there is considerable evidence for the production of cheese on the island. The museum of Majorca, for example, has a mold for cheese making dating back to 1500 BC. The following text shows the importance of cheese making in Majorca and is an interesting historical curiosity. “In September 1319, Don Ramon of Aviñon and the consuls of Tarragona boarded ship at Barcelona with a letter of recommendation from King Jaime II for King Onsino of Armenia, in which interest was expressed in the relics of Saint Tecla, now patron saint of Tarragona. In exchange for 40 Andalusian horses, a golden throne, 2000 Majorcan cheeses and other goods, the King of Armenia handed over the remains of the saint’s arms and some bones to the delegation, which returned to Barcelona in 1320 with the celebrated relics”. The island of Majorca is home to two breeds of sheep: the Majorcan sheep, which is part of the Mediterranean family, and the Red Majorcan, which appeared in the 19th century and has African influences, as is the case for some Italian and French breeds. It is a minor breed whose survival is at risk: there are fewer than a thousand animals. It is farmed using semi-extensive methods, with pasture grazing being supplemented with oats and fava beans during the milking period. The sheep are milked twice a day from October to the end of July. Red Majorcan cheese is small and variable in size, depending on the producer. It has a square form with convex corners, its height is about 6 cm and diameter about 15 cm. Its weight varies between 300 and 1000 grams. It has a very distinctive flavor due to the high fat milk and use of vegetable rennet (obtained by grinding cardoon pistils, Cynara cardunculus). This type of cheese is still produced by some shepherds for family consumption. Only one cheesemaker produces for the local market. The cheese making process is very simple: once a day the raw milk from two milkings is heated to a temperature of 32°, vegetable rennet is then added and the mixture left to coagulate for about half an hour. The curd is then broken and shaped with cotton cloth, which gives its distinctive shape. At this point the forms are pressed for about eight hours and then salted. The cheese is matured under cool conditions for about two months. At the end of this period the rind is treated with an oil-based emulsion.

Back to the archive >



Islas Baleares

Other info


Milk and milk products