Few cheeses are as readily identifiable at Spain’s Tronchon. Produced in a small village of the same name, Tronchon has a distinct crater in the center and a raised ring around the outside, giving it the look of a very large doughnut whose center has not been completely removed. The origin of this shape are a bit mysterious, but cheesemakers continue to use the same traditional molds that have been used for generations.
Unlike the shape, the milk source is not nearly as consistent. Tronchon is often made from mixed milk, using mostly goat and sheep. Some versions add cow’s milk to the mix, and some varieties I’ve sampled were just sheep. This variety is due to Spain’s penchant for mixed herds (check out the Spanish blue Valdeon for another example).
When young, Tronchon’s texture is springy, squeaky and the taste is decidedly mild, with a mild sour cream-esque twang. These young offerings are rindless and best used for either melting or sliced up to replace the more standard aged provolone in a sandwich. As it ages, the cheese becomes more dense, yet still retains a very moist feel on the tongue. The flavors also intensify. Notes of rosemary begin to come through, as well as a strong bite akin to fresh pineapple. It becomes an excellent table cheese, perfect to be paired with other Spanish cheeses, such as Monte Enebro and Afuega l’Pitu.
Despite being from La Mancha, the land of Manchego, it is Tronchon that inspires Don Quixote to wax poetic. When Sancho and Tosilos sit down to a meal, it’s this cheese that they “finished off the contents of the alforjas down to the bottom, so resolutely that they licked the wrapper of the letters, merely because it smelt of cheese.” Tronchon is still a much loved cheese in Spain, and I was even able to find a promotional video for it available here (in Spanish).
Tronchon is relatively common at most well stocked cheese shops. Formaggio Kitchen (in New York’s Essex St. Market as well as their original store in Cambridge, Mass.) has the Oveja (sheep) version available for $23.00/lb. and the Capra (goat) version for $21.90/lb. Our online friends at iGourmet have it for $11.99/lb. I realize the price difference is significant, but keep in mind that the Formaggio Kitchen versions are artisanally produced and aged, resulting in a much more complex cheese.