Ossau Iraty is the proud product of the French Basque Country and the nearby Béarn region in southwestern France. It is made with the milk of Manech and Basco-Bearnaise ewes, and was granted PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status, illustrating its quality and excellence by guaranteeing the origin of the milk and the production process, which adheres to specific, traditional methods.
Ossau-Iraty, a Thousand-Year-Old Cheese
Ossau-Iraty was first made a thousand years ago in Basque Country and Bearn. Its name reflects its dual origin: Ossau valley in the Bearn, with its long history of Basco-Béarnaise-breed sheep farming, and the Iraty Mountains in Basque Country, home to the red-headed Manech ewes in the valleys.
This landscape of mountains, dense forest and green meadows has given birth to a robust cheese with subtle flavors, a cheese made by shepherds and cheesemakers who live according to lambing, milking and transhumance.
Today, Ossau-Iraty is made in the region’s farms and dairies, as well as according to the time-honored tradition of being produced in shepherd’s refuges among the alpine pastures. In the local patois, these chalets are known as “Cujalas” in Béarn and “Cayolars” in Basque Country.
After three months of ripening in cool and humid cellars, Ossau-Iraty acquires its characteristics of a tender, soft, ivory body. Its orange rind turns ash gray when stored at length. Its taste is simultaneously nutty and sweet, with hints of olive, hazelnut and fig.
Tasting Tips for Ossau-Iraty
Ossau-Iraty is ideal for the cheese board, and can be enjoyed with bread, black cherry jam and honey, or even with fruit.
This wine-friendly cheese tickles the palate with Pinot Gris, Bordeaux Blanc, any medium-to-full bodied Merlot, or rare local Basque wine, such as Irouléguy. You can also pair it with a California Sémillon or Chardonnay.
Recipe: Ossau-Iraty “Quiche” :
For the pastry
- 175g (1 cup) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 5g (5 tbsp) butter, plus extra for greasing
For the filling
- 400g (3 cups) Ossau-Iraty, grated
- 1 head of broccoli
- 200g (1/2 pound) bacon, chopped
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 100ml (1/2 cup) milk
- 200ml (1 cup) double cream
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- To make the pastry, sift the flour together with a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Rub in the butter until you have a soft breadcrumb texture. Add enough cold water to make the crumb mixture come together to form a firm dough, and then place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the pastry on a light floured surface and line a 22cm (8½inch) well-buttered flan dish. Chill again.
- Preheat the oven to 190C (375F).
- Remove the pastry case from the refrigerator and line the base of the pastry with baking parchment, and then fill it with baked beans. Place on a baking tray and bake blind (without the filling) for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and wax paper and return to the oven for another five minutes to cook the base
- Reduce the temperature of the oven to 160C (325F).
- Sprinkle the cheese into the pastry base and add the broccoli, if desired. Fry the bacon pieces until crisp and sprinkle over them over the top.
- Combine the eggs with the milk and cream in a bowl and season well. Pour over the bacon and cheese. Sprinkle the thyme over the top and trim the edges of the pastry.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool and set further.
- Trim the pastry edges to get a perfect edge, then serve in wedges.