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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ossau-Iraty AOP. One of France’s Two AOP sheep’s cheeses.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Fromage Ossau-Iraty
Ossau-Iraty AOP Cheese.

Ossau-Iraty AOP – A 50 % fat, non-pasteurized, smooth, creamy and firm.  sheep’s milk cheese. This is a semi-hard cheese with a white to ivory color and a subtle, slightly nutty, taste; the rind is yellow-orange to reddish gray. The cheese is aged for a minimum of two to three months before being sold. The aging of this cheese is very important and is done in damp, temperature, controlled cellars; the cheese is turned and brushed every few days to ensure that each cheese matures evenly.
The most well-known sheep's cheeses.
Ossau-Iraty AOP is one of  the two sheep's milk cheeses granted AOP status in France. (The other is Roquefort AOP). Whole cheeses weigh 4 -5 kilos ( 9 – 11 lbs) each. Ossau-Iraty will not only be on the cheese trolley it will be on many menus:

A wrapped Ossau-Iraty Cheese.
Ossau-Iraty on French Menus:
Ossau-Iraty et sa Confiture de Cerises Noires – Ossau-Iraty served together with black cherries.  This is a popular dessert
Figues Fraîches au Jambon Sec de Montagne et Ossau Iraty – Fresh figs served wuth cured mountain ham and Ossau-Iraty.
Omelet melon and Ossau-Iraty cheese.
Photograph courtesy of Guillaume Simon
Jambon Cru, AOC Ossau-Iraty, Piment d'Espelette, Pommes de Terre Risolées, Sorbet Griotte.-  Cured Ham, Ossau-Iraty AOP Cheese, Espelette pepper, deep fried rissole potatoes and a sorbet of sour cherries.
Le Merlu Étuvé Lentement, Poutargue et Ossau-Iraty, Slowly steamed whiting, the fish. Here it is served with portargue, the salted and dried roe of the gray mullet and Ossau – Iraty.
Aging Ossau Iraty Cheese
Demi Magret de Canard, Cuit au Sel de Guerande, Céleri au Miel et Galette de Pomme de Terre a  l'Ossau Iraty. Half a duck’s breast cooked on the salt from Guerand along with celery with honey, a potato pancake, and Ossau Iraty.
Brochettes aux Figues Fraîches, Ossau Iraty et Jambon Sec de Modena. - Skewers of fresh figs, served with Ossau Iraty cheese and cured ham, from Modena, Italy.
Salade Tiède de Poires Comice, Ossau Iraty et Noisettes Torréfiées – A warm salad with comice pears, Ossau-Iraty Cheese, and roasted hazelnuts.

The cheese’s most important producer.

There is an age-old dispute over who first created this cheese; the dispute is between the historic regions of Béarn and the Pays Basque, the Basque Country.  Until the 1970’s the same cheese was called Ossau in Béarn and Iraty in the Pays Basque. Then someone said let us work together to market this cheese properly; that may mean increased incomes, maybe a new television, maybe a new car, maybe Common Market subsidies?. Then voila after hundreds of years of disagreement a compromise was reached and since the 1970’s the cheese is called Ossau-Iraty AOC/AOP. Economics won out; the cheese itself has not changed.
Ossau-Iraty AOC will be on many local menus and may be offered with a salad, or used as a gratin on the main dish. The longer the cheese is matured the stronger tasting it becomes; matured Ossau-Iraty cheeses will be on the cheese trolley and in the supermarkets and fromageries, cheese shops, all over France.
Ossau-Iraty AOC is an important part of the local economy and you may obtain a map for their Route du Fromage AOC Ossau-Iraty, the Ossau-Iraty cheese road. This special road is prepared for just the one cheese and it does direct you to many farms that produce it and you may taste it at different stages of maturity. Nevertheless, many of these farms make other local cheeses, and that will make your tasting more enjoyable. Wine cellars, shops and other farms along the route may also offer, for a small additional charge, local wines that include Irouleguy and Madiran.  Those farms that make other local, though less well-known cheeses include other sheep’s cheeses as well as cow and goat's milk cheeses. Tasting requires a small contribution to the local economy. (see AOC and Basque).

Ossau-Iraty has a French language website. Using the Google and Bing translation apps make their information very clear.

On the same website you may download a PDF with their Route du Fromage:

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Bryan G. Newman
Copyright 2016
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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