As a cheese lover it’s always fun to sample and savor a wide variety of imported cheeses from countries around the world. Another way to appreciate cheese tasting is to focus on the specific milk type the cheese is made from. Sheep’s milk brings an entirely different flavor profile to the cheese table; from subtle and approachable with a bit of sweetness. to tart and briny cheeses, and those with notes of caramel, butterscotch, and pepper.
Another fun fact! Sheep’s milk has a higher natural percentage of butterfat clocking in at 7.4% vs 3.7% for cow’s milk and 3.6% for goat milk. This higher level of fat and protein means it not only takes less sheep’s milk to make cheese than other milks but the high butterfat makes for delicious cheeses that are exceptionally buttery, nutty, and rich.
Here are some classic and special sheep’s milk cheese to add to your next tasting:
Perfect for snacking, cheese boards, or cooking – imported Manchego is very approachable, buttery, and nutty. As it ages it becomes more piquant, peppery, and granular. This iconic Spanish sheep’s milk cheese is a regulated cheese and must be produced from the milk of the Manchega sheep within designated parts of the Spanish provinces of Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, and Toledo. Produced in large wheels with a braided basket weave around the outside; imported Manchego cheese can be aged from 60 days to 14 or more months giving a different texture and flavor profile as it ages. Try it in our recipe for Spanish inspired Manchego Stuffed Flank Steak with Romesco Sauce, shaved on a salad, or drizzled with honey.
Manchego Stuffed Flank Steak with Romesco Sauce
Pecorino cheese is one of the most popular and beloved imported cheeses from Italy. Made exclusively with sheep’s milk; the word Pecorino itself is derived from the word “pecore”, meaning sheep in Italian. Loosely applied, “pecorino” can refer to ANY cheese made with sheep’s milk, and many of Italy’s localities produce and consume their own versions, sometimes referred to as “Cacio” – each with their own flavor profiles and textures.
You probably know and love Pecorino for it’s sharp, lightly tangy, and salty flavor that’s often grated on pasta…but there’s a lot more history and varieties of Pecorino than you may know. Produced in Italy since Roman times; of the main varieties Pecorino Romano is probably the best known outside Italy, especially in the United States, which has been a major export market for the cheese since the 19th century. Enjoy it’s sharp, nutty, lightly spicy flavor in classic dishes like our One Pan Cacio e Pepe where it magically turns just pasta cooking water and peppercorns into a luscious sauce.
One Pan Cacio e Pepe
Learn more in our piece All About Pecorino
Semi hard, citrusy, spicy, and infused with peppercorns; Pecorino Pepato cheese packs amazing flavor. It’s an intense, citrusy, spicy, salty cheese that can be appreciated on its own, as a stuffing for ravioli or tortellini or with fava beans. Traditional Pecorino Pepato comes from Sicily, where it’s an important part of regional cooking.
Semi firm, robust, crumbly imported Feta cheese from Greece is a classic in salads and other iconic Mediterranean dishes. Creamy white in color with small holes and a crumbly texture; Feta normally comes in square cakes with no rind and has a bright, tart, salty flavor that adds a pop of flavor to your cooking.
In Greece, feta is cured in a salty brine and it’s often sold that way in the US. Known as a pickled cheese, its flavor becomes sharper and saltier with age as the cheese becomes more firm. Try it in our Easy Spanakopita Bites or Feta and Potato Vareniki to see how easily imported Feta cheese elevates a dish.
This firm, milky, salty, snowy white sheep’s milk cheese from Italy is perfect for crumbling or shaving onto salads, pasta salads, or pastas. We love crumbling it over roasted beets, drizzled with vinaigrette. Fun Fact: Ricotta Salata is actually made from the remaining sheep’s milk whey from Pecorino cheese production with the name Ricotta Salata meaning “recooked and salted”. Try it in our Spring Pea Salad with Lemon and Mint at your next gathering.
Spring Pea Salad with Ricotta Salata
This semi-soft, salty, and tangy beauty from France is a blue-veined sheep’s milk cheese that’s moist yet crumbly. It’s a wonderful cheese for dressings, served on salads or over grilled beef. Try it in our recipe for a Grilled Steak and Veggie Platter to see just how its flavor shines through. It’s one of the great French cheeses with a salty, distinctive, and powerful flavor.