|Other names||Mahón, Mahón-Menorca|
|Country of origin||Spain|
|Region||Balearic Islands, Spain|
|Source of milk||Cows|
|Texture||Soft to hard|
|Dimensions||20 cm × 20cm × 9 cm|
|Aging time||3 weeks – 2 years or longer|
|Related media on Wikimedia Commons|
Maó cheese (formatge de Maó in the original Catalan, queso de Mahón in Spanish) is a soft to hard white cheese made from cows' milk, named after the town and natural port of Maó (known as Mahón in Spanish), on the island of Menorca off the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Menorca is known for its cheese production and is home to one of the most respected dairy plants in Europe.
Nearly a century ago, the gatherer-ripeners were said to have emerged as a class of island society in Menorca. Their work consisted of trading and distributing farm products, seeds, utensils, foods, etc. In exchange they would receive fresh cheeses that the farmers brought to their houses. In order to store them, the recogedores had caves for the careful and novel aging of the cheeses. They controlled everything in production, from the changing winds and temperature level to the correct handling of the product. In so doing, they obtained the original cheese from Mahón; soft, aired or cured, that they would then sell in diverse markets of the islands and the peninsula. Their careful techniques made famous Mahón cheese, and helped to make it a sought-after export.
In 1985, the cheese from Maó received the Denominación de Origen.
Mahón has some characteristics specific to it, despite aging. In general the cheese is buttery sharp, slightly salty and lightly aromatic (sweet and nutty aromas) in taste.
Mahón's sweet and fruity but at times slightly salty taste is due in part to the sea salt content in the grasses the cows eat. The rind is generally an orange color due to the rind being rubbed with butter, or oil, and paprika. As it reaches maturity (around 10 months) it tends to have small misshapen holes and has some granularity. In general, all aged Mahón has a proliferation of tiny holes.
Young Maó (artesà)
Maó artesà or Mahón artesano (Catalan and Spanish for "artisanal Maó", respectively) is young, aged no longer than three months, and softer than traditional Maó. It is important to keep young Maó in the vegetable compartment of a refrigerator or cooler. It should be stored in airtight plastic wrapping to preserve its softness.
Conversely, harder, more aged Maó should be wrapped in foil or waxed paper.
- Maó is considered one of the most versatile cheeses of the Spanish gastronomy.
- The creamy texture suggests it be served over pasta, potato, rice and/or vegetable dishes.
- The traditional manner of eating Maó consisted of sliced cheese, sprinkled with olive oil, black pepper and tarragon.
- Most of the production of this cheese is used to make processed cheese (queso fundido, not to be confused with the cheese dish of the same name).
- Jenkins, Steven. 1996. Cheese Primer. New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. 186-188.
- "The Taste of Menorca: Mahon". Cheese from Spain. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2009-11-19.
- Fox, P. F. (ed.) (1999) Cheese: Chemistry, Physics and Microbiology (Major Cheese Groups) Springer. Google Books. Retrieved 11 October 2013.