Menorca is a small island with a big heart. Not just a big heart but a serious heritage. It is clearly Spanish but all a little different, from the stone house structures that look prehistoric and like the many UNESCO heritage sites scattered throughout the island. These are relatively modern and are used to house animals in farm fields. They add to Menorca’s sense of wildness and natural beauty. There is little modern here to interfere.
The Indigenous Red Menorquina Cows of Menorca
Menorca has it’s own breed of horses and cows, both indigenous and evolved to adapt to the island. As with most places, a lot of farmers have fresian cows now, bred for their high milk output, but they are northern European animals that deal well with cold summers. In the summer heat of Menorca they struggle and their milk production is poor. By contrast the Menorcan red cow, the Menorquina, is evolved to deal with the heat and produces a high quality milk all year round. Less milk, but better quality. They are endangered now but Juan and Maria Antonia at Torralbet have a heard of Menorquina which they milk to produce a raw traditional Menorcan Talayotic cheese. (Talayotic or talaiotic refers to the iron age culture on the island, reflected in the 1574 sites dotted around the small island).
Torralbet is a gorgeous wild spot down winding country roads lined with rough stone walls and fields filled with wild flowers and rambling hedges. Cows and sheep roam fields surounding, and the in the outhouses there are Menorquin horses, enormous horses, slender and strong, an indigenous breed that is integral to the Menorcan culture. These horses are integral to the annual Festes de Sant Joan de Ciutadella, the famous horse festival in Menorca, and the most important festival of the year. Running for a few days, riders on horseback ride through the crowds, with the horses rearing on their hind legs as they do. There are medieval style jousts, which Juan and his family participate in. Juan proudly showed me photos of his young son winning one year.
There are many goats at Torralbet too. Clattering and bleating, bells ringing, the nanny goats had just been milked but the kids still wanted to be fed. There was a lot of disgruntled kicking and more bleating. One little orphan kid goat followed us around. He follows the farmer everywhere, as the farmer has reared him since he was a baby. So sweet. And in the middle of all of the goats, a stunning white peacock. And there are pigs for sobrassada and the other traditional Menorcan meats.
Juan and Maria are committed to preserving the indigenous farming and food culture of the island. They milk the cows, sheep and goats daily and make several cheeses. At Torralbet there are 40 cows and 120 sheep, goats and newborns. The cows are milked for cheese only in the morning, leaving the evening milk for the calves.
Making Talayotic Cheese at Torralbet Farm
Each cow yields 12l of milk per day, and 100l of milk will make 12 cheeses. Essentially a cheese per day, per cow. The milk is brought to the small dairy immediately after milking and still warm. The curds are split from the whey with rennet, before being strained into cheese cloths which are tied in the traditional way. They are then left to drain on a shelf with a weight pressed down on them. Then they are aged until lightly cured, semi cured or mature.
The whey goes to feed the pigs which become that wonderful Menorcan sobrassada, the creamy spicy sweet spreadable sausage, red with pepper and smooth with fat. They make other traditional pork products too, and different sizes of sobrassada, including the ones made in a bladder and aged until a bit more dry.
Torralbet Farm Shop
At Torralbet there is a farm shop where they sell all of their products, on the day that I visited they had their own sun dried tomatoes and peppers as well as many cheeses and pork products, and their farm eggs. It is a wonderful spot. Farms like Torralbet are important in terms of preserving and maintaing food culture. Their produce is excellent too, and very well priced. I highly recommend a visit. I would stock up for a gorgeous picnic on the beautiful beaches nearby.
Other Menorca posts on Eat Like a Girl:
I travelled to Menorca as part of a project between iAmbassador and Visit Menorca, who sponsored this project. As always, I retain complete editorial control..