Menorca is full of delicious local specialities that are worth trying when you’re on the island. Some of them you can also put in your suitcase and take home.
Queso Mahón is known far beyond its island of origin and has become a speciality on a par with French cheeses. Mahón cheese is made from the cow’s milk of the island’s many black-backed cows and some sheep’s milk. You can taste it in many different dishes in the restaurants, but you can also just order a cheese plate. Then you typically get Mahón cheeses in different varieties with, among other things, herbs.
Cheese was originally produced on farms, but today it is mostly produced industrially. However, you can still buy cheese from farms, and you can tell by the clear marks where it has been tied. The completely smooth cheese comes from the dairies.
If you fancy taking a piece of the soft, round and very tasty cheese home, you can buy it vacuum-packed in delicatessens and supermarkets. The fresh, mild is called tierno, the medium aged semicurado and curado, and the aged is called anjero.
Sobrasada is a mildly spiced sausage made from the meat of Balearic black-footed pigs, paprika and spices. However, it is also available in a version with meat from white pigs. Despite its mildness, sobrasada tastes of a lot. It has a loose, soft texture and is more succulent than the well-known Spanish chorizo. The sausage is a popular hostess gift. It hangs and dries according to individual taste.
The locals typically eat it with honey on a piece of bread. However, it is also used in lots of dishes. I have eaten it in a restaurant in a salad. The sausage was fried and had melted cheese on top, and of course there was the obligatory honey for dipping and bread with cattle jam. A very simple and rustic salad that tasted great.
Sobrasada is available in all delicatessens, markets and supermarkets.
During the British occupation of Menorca (1708 to 1802), the island was filled with English soldiers and sailors, who often frequented the local bars. But they missed being able to drink gin, which was very popular in their homeland. The Menorcans solved the problem by bringing juniper bushes to the island and began producing gin from grapes instead of grain, which is used to make English gin.
The gin was a success and in the 18th and 19th century, it was served on every occasion. Today, gin is Menorca’s biggest export, just as it is still popular on the island. In addition to the pure version, pomada is also produced, which is gin with lemon lemonade. In cafés and bars, you can also order a peloffa, which is gin with a shot of soda and a slice of cirton.
The gin is produced by Xoriguer, located in Mahón. You can visit the distillery, get an insight into the production, taste the gin and buy it in both glass and clay bottles.
Caldereta de llangosta
Menorca, and especially the town of Fornells, is famous for its lobster stew – Caldereta de llangosta. The best version of lobster stew is in Fornells, and locals claim it’s because the town has the best lobster fishermen in the Mediterranean. The lobster is cooked in a soup with peppers, tomatoes, parsley, spices, olive oil, almonds and garlic.
Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos, and his family sail to Fornells to eat Caldereta de llangosta, and the locals in town think that must be proof enough that they make the best. Eat it in one of the city’s many seaside restaurants, where you’ll also get great views.
Sweet and savoury pastries
Menorcans love cakes and pastries, at least judging by the selection in the island’s many bakeries. Here you’ll find a huge selection of sandwiches and pastries with vegetables or local cheese and sausage, so you can grab breakfast or lunch in a hurry. However, it is the selection of cakes that is most overwhelming, and if you have a sweet tooth, it will be hard not to indulge it.
Menorca’s most eaten cake is the ensaimada, which you may know from Mallorca, where it is also available everywhere. Ensaimada is a pastry with pork fat, shaped like a giant snail and sprinkled with icing sugar. It is available in both a neutral version and with a chocolate and cream filling. Ensaimadas can be bought in small and large versions from bakers, souvenir shops and delicatessens. The big ones are sold, gift-wrapped, by the truckload to tourists.
Menorcans eat biscuits for every occasion – especially the flower-shaped, crisp and airy passtries sprinkled with icing sugar. If you drink coffee in cafés, hotels or in private, you will often be served passtries. The bakers have many different kinds of biscuits wrapped in nice boxes, which the locals use for hostess gifts.
Marmalade with wine
Wine marmalade (Mermelada de Vino) is a delicious delicacy that tastes great with cheese. The Binifadet winery, which began producing wine in 1979, makes the jam with wine of its own production, and you can buy it in most delicatessens on the island. It is available in four flavours, two with white wine and 2 with red wine.
The white wine jam is soft and round in taste. It has a slight citrus flavour and is great with very young and semi-mature cheeses, as well as the classic Menorcan sausage, sobrasada. It is available in a chardonney and a muscadet version.
The red wine based jam has a stronger flavour and a touch of raspberry and blueberry. It goes well with mature and powerful cheeses and foie gras. The red wine jam is available with syrah and with cava rosé.
You can also visit Binifadet, get an insight into their wine and jam production, and taste the wine, jam and other of their delicacies like goat cheese marinated in wine.