One of the most frequent requests we receive at my cheese counter is for raw-milk goat cheese. While there are plenty of raw-milk options among our cow’s milk cheeses, there are ridiculously few options in the sheep-and-goat set. We recently brought in a cheese to help fill the void—and add a bit of color to the case.
Queso Ibores (pronounced “kay-so ee-boh-rez”) is a Spanish goat’s milk cheese from Extremadura, a region in the southern part of Spain along the border with Portugal. Ibores may have a plain rind that is brushed with olive oil, or it may have a bright-orange rind that is treated with olive oil and smoked paprika (pimentón).[i] (The variety we brought in has the paprika rind, which helps it to stand out among the other white cheeses in the goat section.)
This cheese was traditionally made with the milk of Verata and Retinta goats that dined in the oak forests of the region.[ii] Today those two breeds are nearly extinct, so the milk comes almost exclusively from Serrana goats that are bred to produce milk in the fall and winter instead of the spring and summer.[iii] In France and Switzerland, animals are taken up to the mountain in the spring and summer and come back down to spend the snowy winters in the valleys. In steamy hot Extremadura, the goats are taken up to the mountains in the fall and winter.
Ibores has a protected designation of origin (PDO) governing how the cheese must be made. This dictates that the milk for Queso Ibores can only come from Retinta, Verata, or Serrana sheep; the cheese must be made from whole milk with no additives; it must be salted for at least 24 hours after being made, and must ripen for at least 60 days.[iv] While Ibores is traditionally a raw-milk cheese, it may also be made with pasteurized milk.
Queso Ibores comes in a teeny little wheel, measuring about 4 inches in diameter and roughly two inches tall.[v] The paprika-rubbed version is striking for its contrast between the snow-white paste inside and the bright orange rind outside. The cheese’s texture is dry and firm by the time it meets the US’ 90-day minimum aging rule for raw-milk cheeses. While it is friable, it is also smooth—melting on your tongue.
Ibores smells tangy and barnyardy, with notes of mustard and pepper. Its flavor is fruity, reminiscent of orange peel, with a raw-almond nuttiness, characteristics of lightly salted butter and damp wool, and a pronounced, earthy barnyard funk. It is goaty, but in a good way.
You can enjoy this cheese with a variety of fruits, raw peppers, cucumbers, or radishes, cured or smoked pork, and strong, red wines.[vi] It goes without saying that you can serve it with crusty bread. It would also be great shaved into a salad or over roasted brussels sprouts or Romanesco.
[i] “Ibores DOP.” World Cheese Book. Ed. Juliet Harbutt. New York: DK, 2009. 157.
[iii] Thorpe, Liz. “Manchego.” The Book of Cheese. New York: Flatiron, 2017. 208.
[v] “Ibores DOP.”
[vi] Jenkins, Steven. “The Interior of Spain.” Cheese Primer. New York: Workman, 1996. 354.