The first time Michele Buster found the right manchego, it came straight out of the trunk of a car in Spain at the end of a search that lasted longer than a year. She had recently co-founded Forever Cheese and she was on a mission to popularize the cheese she remembered from her student days. She found the black-rinded versions available in the United States lacking: the throat-burning high-acid stuff was virtually unrecognizable from the nutty, buttery cheeses she’d bought each week in small-town Spanish farmers markets.
Enter the Corcuera family. They produced the cheese that came out of that trunk, and today the business is still family-owned. They’re the folks behind the brands El Trigal and Corcuera, and they’ve been distributing in the United States through Buster ever since. She still raves about their product. “It’s exemplary for its butteriness and sweetness. It just melts in your mouth.”
Like champagne or Vidalia onions, manchego is place-specific and comes with its own certification. True manchego has to be made in the La Mancha region of Spain, which is a little smaller than South Carolina. It also has to be made exclusively from the milk of manchega sheep and aged for at least 60 days. Each round is finished with a unique serial number and a sticker featuring Don Quixote, and the rind always features a zig-zag pattern that originated when grass baskets were used for storage. Forever Cheese imports several different varieties from the Corcuera family: aged three months, six months, eight months, one year, and older.
Curious about the nutty, buttery, just-salty-enough cheese Buster fell in love with almost twenty years ago? You can sample the Corcuera family’s brand among others this weekend at several Fairway and Whole Foods locations. Find a full schedule here.
Photo courtesy of Michele Buster of Forever Cheese. Don Quixote rides his horse on the small yellow sticker on the left.
Update: April 21, 2015
The manchego tastings were a huge success- over 5,000 people came out to sample some of Spain’s finest sheep’s milk cheese. Missed the opportunity? In addition to Fairway, Stinky BKLYN and Whole Foods, here are a few places around the city to find authentic manchego.