If you glanced at the accompanying picture and noted the characteristic zig-zag rind and the dense, pale interior of the cheese, the word "Manchego" may have flashed through your mind. But though it bears close resemblance to Manchego (in appearance and even in recipe), Zamorano has its own unique flavours which can be more complex than Manchego's.
While Manchego hails from the Castilla-La Mancha region south of Madrid and is made from the milk of the Manchega sheep, Zamorano comes from the Castilla y Leon region's northwestern province of Zamora. A seasonal cheese, it is mainly produced from early spring to the end of the summer from the high-fat milk of Churra and Castellana sheep.
This raw milk translates into a rich, full-flavoured cheese. Cave-aged a minimum of 100 days and up to a year, this hard cheese is dense but moist, with small holes (eyes) throughout and a pale paste that darkens with age. (Aged Manchego can be slightly drier in texture.) Zamorano is perfectly balanced with nutty butter notes, savoury saltiness and a refreshing, lemony acidity with hints of grass. These flavours grow more rounded and develop an underlying sweetness as as it ages.
The pattern on the natural rind comes from the plaited esparto grass moulds that form and drain the cheese. Like Manchego, this is a versatile cheese and a perfect match for charcuterie. Older versions can be grated into hot dishes, and you will never regret finding Zamorano in your cheese drawer when searching for a snack. It will keep well – if you're able to keep it long.