Ossau-iraty is produced in southwestern France, in the Northern Basque Country and in Béarn. Ossau-Iraty is rather medium-soft, light in color and has very complex yet delicately smooth flavors. Made from the milk of Manech and Basco-Bearnaise ewes, this cheese tastes slightly akin to cow’s cheeses of similar texture (i.e. alps cheese). 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 and a rich, smooth finish. The edible, slightly tart rind also adds considerably to the experience.
Its name reflects its geographical location: the Ossau Valley in Béarn and the Iraty Valley in the Northern Basque Country. It has been recognized as an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) product since 1980. It is one of only two sheep’s milk cheeses granted AOC status in France. (The other is Roquefort). Although Ossau-Iraty received AOC status in the 80s, it is of ancient origin, traditionally made by the shepherds in the region.
Pair it up!
- 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, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Madiran.
Ossau-Iraty “Quiche” Recipe
For the pastry
- 1 cup plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 5 Tbsp butter, plus extra for greasing
For the filling
- 3 cups Ossau-Iraty, grated
- 1 head of broccoli
- 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup milk
- 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 lightly floured surface and line a 8-9 inch well-buttered pie or cake pan. Chill again.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- 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 325°F.
- Sprinkle the cheese into the pastry base and add the broccoli, if desired. Fry the bacon pieces until crisp and sprinkle 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.
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