The Cheesemonger: Queso Mahon

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Name: Queso Mahon
Producer: Various (Spain)
Milk: Raw Cow
Age: 1+ years
Price: $13.99-19.00

"Sharp" means different things to different people. To some, it's just something strong. There are others who, similar to those who love extreme sports, want it to rip the roof off of their mouth. And to some, myself included, it's that harsh bite that comes when a cheese has been matured to the point where the natural acidic flavors in the cheese have developed.

When young, Queso Mahon is sweet and a little spongy; good, but nothing to tell your friends about. Marked simply as "Mahon", the true name of he cheese I picked up is "Mahon Reserva", a name given to it once it's been aged over a year. This is a bold cheese, no doubt about it. Highly sharp, salty and Parmesan-like in texture. Subtleties are not lost on Mahon Reserva, though. Digging deeper, there are cheddar-like caramel and mild smokey flavors. This is also a cheese to go crazy with and eat the rind as well. Rubbed in oil and paprika during aging, the rind has a wonderful flavor, like a fruity olive oil.

Mahon is available at most quality cheese shops, in one form or another. Be aware, though, most stores will be selling the two-month old version, which will be much milder. Look for Mahon Reserva or Mahon Semicurado when buying your cheese.

In its aged state, Mahon would make an excellent grating cheese, served over asparagus or topping a little bruschetta. Or nibble on it with something big and spicy, even the tough Caberenets from California, with their over-the-top punch, would be kept on their toes with this cheese.

I picked mine up at Blue Apron Foods (812 Union Street, Brooklyn) for $18.95/lb, though Artisanal also has an excellent version available for $19/lb. Those in other parts of the country can order it from iGourmet for $13.99/lb.