Interview with Javier Jiménez, technical director of D.O.P. Queso Ibores

The cheese of Ibores is so old that Francisco Pizarro surely tasted it before leaving for America. Already in the 15th century the city of Trujillo was famous for the high quality of its cheese, a product that has improved over time and maintains its special halo.

In the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara region, among mountain massifs, the Tagus and Guadiana basins, this delicacy is made with raw goat’s milk from the retinta, verata and serrana races. Its peculiar taste and unique characteristics make it a product with Protected Designation of Origin. “Ibores Cheese was recognised for its prestige in April 1994 when the Ministry of Agriculture, Trade and Agrarian Industries of the Junta de Extremadura provisionally granted it the Denomination of Origin. Later, in 2004, it obtained national protection and finally, in March 2005, the recognition and protection of the European Union”, explains Javier Jiménez, technical director of D.O.P. Queso Ibores.

Goat farming in these regions has always been linked to a self-consumption economy, explains Jiménez. “Both the farmer and his family were in charge of milking the goats. They used the surplus milk and transformed it into cheese, using artisan procedures, which were passed down from generation to generation, using natural rennet, squeezing for draining and chestnut wood cinches for moulding. The productions were small, so the cheese, which was finally destined for sale in the markets of the regions, did not achieve great economic impact,” he recalls.

Today the process has changed and has been optimised. The introduction of technology on farms, “such as mechanical milking of livestock and cold tanks for the conservation of milk” have had repercussions on the increase in production and “in the improvement of conditions, both hygienic and sanitary of livestock and milk”, assures the Technical Director.  However, the dairies in charge of making Ibores cheese are still small so the artisan work is maintained for this product, of which 78,178 units were made in 2016 and which is sold, mainly to the rest of Spain, and is exported to Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Portugal. Although more and more the American market is interested.

According to the technical director, the secret of its flavour comes from the high quality of the milk from mountain goats, veratas and retintas. “These breeds have been able to adapt to the extreme conditions of the climate and the terrain. Other types of cattle would not be able to reach this level of adaptation in extensive grazing given the orographic conditions of these natural regions”, explains Jiménez.

Without a doubt, one of the most important features of Ibores cheese is its aroma. The notes of this delicacy are slightly spicy and lactic. This cylindrical delicatessen is characterized by a smooth and semi-hard rind that is often dyed red thanks to the brushstrokes it receives from Vera paprika. Internally its paste is ivory white and gives off a mild smell of raw goat’s milk.

Cheese making

Goat milking begins in autumn and intensifies in winter, but peaks in spring and ends in early summer due to heat and early gestation.

The milk used to make this prestigious cheese must be completely natural and clean, i.e. free of colostrum, medicines and preservatives, as any impurities can negatively affect the ripening, storage and final result of the cheese. Before use, fresh milk should be kept below 6 degrees to prevent the development of microbes.

Cheese production begins with the coagulation of the milk, using natural rennet for a period of time [60 to 90 minutes]. The resulting curds are cut into 10 millimetre long grains. They are then transferred to cylindrical moulds and pressed for three to eight hours. The cheese is then salted and finally left to mature for 60 days at a relative humidity of more than 75% and a temperature of between 4º and 15º Celsius.