San Simón cheese is a cow's milk cheese from the region of Galicia in northwestern Spain which has received a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status from the European Union, recognizing it as a unique agricultural product. Like other products with a PDO, San Simón cheese comes with strict production and labeling requirements which are designed to ensure the integrity of the cheese so that future generations can enjoy traditionally-produced San Simón cheese. Consumers also benefit from a PDO status, as it gives them greater confidence when purchasing.
There are several stages to the production of this cheese. It starts with pasteurized cow's milk which is turned into curd with the addition of rennet. The curds are cut and allowed to drain before being packed into pear-shaped molds and allowed to rest for a day. After the resting period, the cheese is scalded in hot whey, allowed to age for two weeks, and then lightly smoked. The cheese ages for an additional period after the smoking, at which point it is ready for sale.
A whole round of San Simón cheese isn't really round at all: it looks like a giant pear. The cheese has a golden to orange rind which is typically very thin, with a creamy soft center. The flavor of San Simón cheese is very mild, with a hint of smoke and a very buttery mouthfeel, and the cheese melts extremely well. You may also hear San Simón cheese referred to as bufone or “dunce cap,” in a reference to the shape.
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This cheese can be used in a variety of ways. Slices of the cheese paired with fresh fruit and crackers can make a refreshing dessert course, and San Simón cheese can also be used in dishes where melted cheese is desirable, ranging from grilled cheese sandwiches to quiches. The cheese pairs best with white and sparkling wines, especially slightly spicy wines which will counter the creamy flavor.
When selecting San Simón cheese in the market, you are more likely to be purchasing a wedge, rather than a whole cheese, in which case you can easily assess the condition of the cheese. The coloration should be even, with no sign of holes or cracking, and cheese which is discolored or moldy should be refused. If you purchase a round of cheese, most cheese shops are willing to take a small core sample for you so that you can test the cheese to ensure that it is good. San Simón cheese should be stored under refrigeration.