- Midi-Pyrenees, France
- Sheep Milk
- Firm Natural Rind
- Smells: Cave, Fresh Milk
- Texture: Firm Fudge, Semi-Firm
- Taste: Toasted Nuts, Apricots, Sweet Hay
- Finish: Toffee, Melted Butter
I am quite sure this will be one of many Ossau Iraty cheeses I will taste and ponder over, for there are well over a hundred. Named for the Ossau Valley and the Iraty Forest, these cheese’s hold a lot of history as well as pride all across the French Midi-Pyrenees. Tales of Ossau Iraty go all the way back to the Roman military outpost in Toulouse, around the second century. Only a few years later in 1980 this sheep’s milk cheese was granted an AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée ~ Protected Designation of Origin). These natural rind beauties are seasonally crafted and tend to have a yellowish-gray rind with a semi-firm paste. Most taste a floral grassiness as well as some nutty and savory characteristics across the many versions of Ossau Iraty. Yet, each dairy has their own prize recipe that differs from that of their neighbors.
Thus, now onto the wedge I enjoy this morning with my honey and coffee. This pasteurized wheel from Pardou Arriou, is aged at least four months in their unique and perfectly regulated cellars. Instead of aging their cheeses in caves, they have put to use an old railway tunnel, where it is constantly 10 degrees Celsius with a rather damp atmosphere of 96% humidity. Once the cheese is formed into about 4 kg wheels, they are soaked, salted, and taken to age in the cellars. A rotation process begins with the wheels being rubbed by hand, first with a wet salty cloth followed by a dry cloth. The care and high standards taken in making Ossau Iraty allow the rich sweetness of the ewe’s milk to shine. A little love most definitely goes a long way.
Simply drizzle some wildflower honey over a few wedges, and just sit in utter contentedness…