Mahon is a Spanish cheese from one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, Minorca. Although widely exported, many people aren't familiar with Mahon. Next time you go into a cheese shop, take a break from the other famous Spanish cheese (Manchego) and ask for Mahon (pronounced mah-HONE) instead.
Mahon is made from cow's milk. Both raw and pasteurized versions are sold, although the pasteurized tends to be less flavorful, so keep an eye out for raw milk versions.
Young Mahon (aged less than 4 months) is semi-firm and mild. The cheese can be buttery, tangy and salty. Wheels of Mahon that have been aged 4 months or more take on a saltier, herbal, more complex flavor and a noticeably tangy finish. Wheels that are aged for a year or more have a texture similar to Parmesan and an intense caramelized, salty flavor.
Mahon has a natural rind. Young wheels of Mahon (and, usually, pasteurized versions) have rinds that are an eye-catching orange color. As the cheese ages, the color of the rind fades to gold, brown or rust colored. The shape of the cheese is square, with rounded edges.
Young Mahon often pairs well with Spanish chorizo and beer. Or, take things in an entirely different direction and try pairing Mahon with sherry, dried fruit, and nuts. Aged Mahon pairs well with red wines like Spanish Tempranillo and Rioja.
Steven Jenkins, the author of Cheese Primer, recommends eating Mahon the "traditional" way "sprinkled with olive oil, black pepper, and tarragon."
More Spanish Cheese
Manchego and Mahon might be the two most well-known, exported Spanish Cheeses. But next time you're at a cheese shop, keep your eyes open for these beauties as well.
Tetilla: A cow's milk cheese with a mild flavor and eye-catching shape
Garrotxa: (Pronounced 'ga-ROCH-ah) A semi-firm goat's milk cheese that often turns goat cheese haters into fans
Ibores: A raw, firm goat's milk cheese rubbed down with paprika and olive oil.
Drunken Goat: Another very popular Spanish cheese, a real crowd-pleaser, made from goat's milk and soaked in wine to give the rind a pretty purple color.
Campo de Montalban: A pasteurized cheese made from cow, goat and sheep's milk, with a texture and flavor similar to Manchego
Torta del Casar: An unpasteurized sheep's milk cheese with a soft, oozing texture. Sometimes, the top is sliced off and the cheese is eaten with a spoon. The flavor is buttery, herbal, grassy and sometimes slightly bitter from the plant rennet used to coagulate the milk.