Step 1. Know how Manchego looks like.
Manchego, as any product with such a long history behind it, has a very recognizable appearance. It comes in big wheels of about 6 to 7 pounds – a delicious exercise regime could be buying two wheels and carrying one in each hand! The indedible rind shows a traditional basketweave pattern. The top and bottom are also pressed with patterns and divided by lines into four equal parts. Very recognizable, isn’t it?
Step 2. Make sure it’s Manchego.
With such a recognizable appearance, many people forget to look for a proof of authenticity. Note that patterns and sizes are easy to copy and so the market is full of fakes. Beware and always make sure you’re buying the real stuff and not a “Manchego-style” cheese that will set you up for a disappointment. There are a few tips (see previous posts) but, if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to make a fuss at the shop, just look at the back of the wheel. There you should find an official D.O. tab labeling it Manchego. Without that, the cheese is a fake!
Step 3. Choose your Manchego type.
Nowadays there are many types of Manchego (real Manchego) available in US stores. First of all, since Manchego can be aged from 2 months to up to 2 years, there’s a wide repertoire of aging times and therefore tasting notes. Second of all, there are dozens of certified cheesemongers producing Manchego cheese, each of them adding his personal touch to the final product. Finally, being such a versatile cheese, Manchego can be used in many recipes so knowing how you’re planning to eat the cheese could also guide your decision.
As you see, the possibilities are endless so have fun, try them all and be ingenious!