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Did you know that the little cheese portions we all "trusted" in our childhood were made in Menorca? Who hasn't grown up eating little cheeses? Those born in the 70s, 80s, and 90s surely remember those cheese portions with a drawing on the box of a white country house with a red roof surrounded by green meadows... Well, those cheeses were made in Menorca. And did you know that milk is one of the oldest foods in existence? It is believed that humans began consuming milk from the moment they domesticated animals. Sheep and cows were the first animals from which milk was obtained, and from which derivatives such as cheese began to be consumed. Legend has it that on a hot day in Asia Minor, a shepherd wanted to drink the milk he had stored in a sort of sack made from a goat's stomach. To his surprise, instead of getting milk, he found a kind of curd and whey. Apparently, the heat and the material of the sack provided the optimal conditions to make cheese.

It's not known exactly since when humans have been consuming cheese, but it's believed that around 12,000 B.C.E., men and women from the Eastern Mediterranean and later from the European continent were already domesticating animals, so it's very possible that milk was consumed from then on. Today, the diversity of cheeses is as wide as there are regions in the world. Each place has an environment and different climatic conditions that give personality, aroma, flavor, and texture to each cheese. It's believed that in Menorca, around 2,000 B.C.E., the Talayotics were already using ceramic containers and utensils to make cheese from the milk of domesticated animals.

The first exports of cheese from Menorca took place in the 13th century, but it was the English in the 18th century who carried out the first major cheese exports through the Mediterranean. Until the arrival of the English, the cow from which the milk was extracted to produce cheese was the Menorcan cow or "vaca rotja". The Menorcan cow is brown, which looks reddish in the sun, hence the name.

The English introduced the Friesian cow to Menorca in the 18th century. Unlike the Menorcan cow, the Friesian cow is capable of producing between 30 and 40 liters a day in winter, almost double that of the red cow, which translates into more profits. But before cows, the cheese produced in Menorca came from sheep, from which their wool was also utilized to make mattresses. Currently, the Tudons farm is one of the few places on the island that produces cheese with Menorcan cow milk; in the rest of the farms, the Menorcan cow is raised for its meat. There are also mixed milk cheeses, however, the cheese with Protected Designation of Origin is cow's cheese.

Menorcan cheese obtained the Designation of Origin in 1985 as “Mahón”, but in 1997 “Mahón- Menorca” was added to the term. This means that Menorcan cheese is recognized and protected for its uniqueness due to the result of specific geo-climatic conditions, such as temperature, humidity, light, and soil nutrients primarily, giving it an intense and unmistakable flavor. There are three types of Protected Designation of Origin cheeses from Menorca, and they differ by the curing time, which gives each a different appearance, color, hardness, flavor, and texture, all depending on how long and how it is cured. In Menorca, the curing method has remained unchanged over the decades, a manual technique passed down from parents to children. Normally, the cheese is cured inside caves where the crust is treated traditionally. It involves a series of turnings while smearing the cheese with oil and sometimes with paprika. Each cheese is dried and turned depending on how each one dries; it is turned as many times as the cheese "asks" for, as if the cheese could speak, and the final result depends on how many times this process is repeated, on the maturity. Doesn't it make you want to enjoy a varied board of Mahón-Menorca cheeses with a good Menorcan wine? Because, in case you didn't know, wine is also produced in Menorca!


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