Ombra- Catalonian Sheep’s Milk Cheese

Ombra from the outside.

Ombra from the outside.

Because I’ve been so focused on the cheese girls next door- the dairy domestics in the U.S.- while I’m writing my American cheese book, I’ve been a little worried lately that my international cheese friends weren’t feeling the love. Not the case, my Euro friends and beyond, not the case. I’ve been sending the love through air kisses from afar.

In case a few of the kisses were lost in transmission (or in the Italian post office system) or my readers were doubting my allegiance to the entire milky world and not just local dairy, I’m devoting the next two posts to two of my Euro favorites. Seek em out.

The first is Ombra.

Ombra, sliced.

Ombra, sliced.

Ombra is a firm, Catalonian Spanish cheese that helps to explain why people fall in love with sheep’s milk. Grassy, nutty, slightly spicy, and peppery, it never fails to blow me away with its lingering complexity.

A bite of Ombra lasts far longer than after it’s swallowed. It lasts longer than your pair of favorite pair of jeans from the 90’s that you just couldn’t bear to throw out (because you knew that in 2011, Chloe Sevigny would put on high-waisted denim and you could bust them out again, right?). Like a great Barolo, Ombra changes from the first to last taste. The first bite delivers an herbal, grassy hit. Later, the herbs morph into a buttery, nutty, and well, slightly musky sheepy finish.

It looks cool too. A gray-blue mold dusts the lightly pleated brown and rusty pattered rind. The interior cracks in just the right places. It has tiny holes that make it look lacy when sliced. Even though a shorter wheel than many cow’s milk cheeses, Ombra stands proud and straight at a powerful four inches high.

When having this Catalonian beauty with wine, drink with a rustic Tempranillo- one with plenty of spice and not too much oak, a Rhone blend heavy on Cinsault, a Bordeaux, or a Catalonian red. When enjoying with a side, slice into a low-sugar, classic Spanish fig and almond cake or medjool dates.

Next up- Roccolo. After Roccolo, I’m excited to share a guest post about a certain caramel cheese friend (cheese is a social animal) by Garret McCord of Vanilla Garlic. Big plans, big plans!

What’s your favorite sheep’s milk cheese from Spain outside of Machego?