Traditional Basque sheep’s milk cheese
There are 3 types of Basque cheeses on both sides of the Pyrenees that are made from raw sheep’s milk.
On the Spanish Basque side we have the Idiazabal and Roncal cheeses. In both cases these cheeses obtain their milk from the Latxa sheep, a species of sheep from the Basque Country from which a very tasty milk is obtained largely due to the greenery of the pastures on which it feeds. The milk obtained is always used unpasteurized for the production of these cheeses.
On the French Basque side we have the Irati-Ossau cheese. In this case the sheep that produce this cheese are of the Manech and Béarnese Basque type. They feed in the summer in high altitude pastures in the Pyrenees. In order to obtain the denomination of origin, this cheese can only be produced in spring and summer to guarantee the maximum quality of the product.
Below we will describe the characteristics of each of the cheeses:
The name comes from the area where it comes from, which is the Ossau Valley and the Irati Forest, the largest beech forest in Europe. As mentioned above, the sheep used in the production of this cheese are of the Manech and Vasco Bearnesa types. Its area of distribution is centered in the Pyrenees on the French side. These are areas ranging between 500 and 1500 meters above sea level. The cheese can only be made with milk from spring and summer. The cheese weighs between 3 and 5kg.
It is a denomination of origin from the Basque Country and Navarra. The milk from Latxa and Carranzana sheep is used for the production of these cheeses. These cheeses weigh between 1 and 3kg.
There are two varieties of this cheese, it can be cured or cured and smoked. For me, the most delicious is the normal one, but there is nothing written about tastes.
The Roncal Valley is located in Navarra, in the Pyrenean area from the border with France to the Bardenas Reales. In the summer the Latxas sheep feed on the high mountain pastures in areas up to 2000m altitude. Then in the winter they go south to feed. This has been the case since the time of King Sancho Garcia in the 9th century.