Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ardi Gasna - France’s Famous Basque AOP Sheep’s Cheese. The Other One is Ossau-Iraty AOP.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Fromage  Ardi Gasna - Ardi Gasna  Cheese.
Ardi Gasna  AOP  is a 45% fat non-pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese produced in the Basque Country in France’s Midi-Pyrénées with some of the cheese being made in the old Province of Bearn.  The cheese is firm and supple, it is a semi-hard cheese, its flavor is mild, nutty. The cheese is aged for between four to six months before being sold. An average cheese weighs 4.50 kg (10 lbs), but now smaller cheeses are also being made, and they weigh approximately 700 grams (1.5 lbs) and are aged for only three months.  In its fifth month, a slight chestnut taste develops, and that is the age when most of the cheese is sold. Ardi Gasna cheese may be eaten all year round, but the cheeses made in the spring and summer months are undoubtedly the best as the milk is enriched by the spring grasses.

A wedge cut from a 4.50 kilo(10 lb) Ardi Gasna Cheese.

Ardi Gasna's name translates as "sheeps cheese."
The cheese is made in wheels and has a natural, crusty, yellow rind with grayish molds. Some cheeses are aged for over one year, and that is the age when the cognoscenti claim it is at its very best. Ardi Gasna is not a unique name; it just means sheep’s cheese in Basque! Be sure order Ardi Gasna AOP   or you may receive any sheep's cheese! The cheese is available in fromageries, cheese shops, all over France.

In local restaurants, you will be offered Ardi Gasna AOP in salads and other recipes.
Aging Ardi Gasna Cheeses

Ardi Gasna on Basque menus:

Ardi Gasna, Confiture de Cerise Noire – The favorite Basque desert. Ardi Gasna and a thick black cherry jam.

Ardi Gasna and Black Cherry jam.
Ardi Gasna et sa Confiture de Figues  - Ardi Gasna with fig jam.
Boudin du Pays, Coulis de Tomates à l'Oignon rouge, Ardi Gasna, Salade Verte – A local sausage, with a coulis of tomatoes and red onions, Ardi Gasna and a green salad. ( A coulis is a purée of raw or cooked vegetables or fruit.  A traditional coulis may be served as a sauce with an appetizer or main course).     

Petite Tartelette au Lard Fumé et Ardi Gasna  - A small tart made with smoked bacon and Ardi Gasna cheese.
Salade Bayonnaise:  Jambon Bayonne, Ardi Gasna, Tomate, Olives Noires – A Bayonne Salad: Bayonne cured ham, Ardi Gasna, tomatoes and black olives.
Tapas Magret Fumé et Ardi Gasna – Tapas made with smoked duck breast and Ardi Gasna.

The production crew behind the Ardi Gasna Cheese
Ardi Gasna is one of the only three AOP sheep’s cheeses the others being Ossau-Iraty AOP which is also a Basque cheese and Roquefort AOP. However, if you are traveling in the area, you will find many other excellent sheep’s cheeses in fromageries and for sale in farms along the way. To receive an AOP, it is not enough to have a very good cheese.  It has to be made in a particular area, in the same manner for a number of years and to be produced in a quantity that shows public interest. The way the sheep are grown is also an important part of the requirements. For Ardi Gasna the lambs must be raised by their mothers and no antibiotics or growth hormones may be used.  During the year the sheep must be allowed to graze freely for 250 days a year. During the winter the sheep must be fed grasses from the area they grazed in the summer, but alfalfa may be added.

Taking Ardi Gasna Home.
Ardi Gasna may be among the most famous cheeses in the Basque country, but there are many other excellent local kinds of cheese; many are also sheep’s cheeses. However, this is an unpasteurized cheese that US visitors may take home as it is aged for over 60 days. (Make sure that you keep the label showing how long the cheese has aged). It is best to buy one of the whole small cheeses, that’s 1,5 lbs or buy a single large wedge. The wedge should be wrapped in plastic wrap, and it will keep well for a few days when traveling home; many fromageries also offer vacuum packaging.   When you arrive back home, it should be maintained in a refrigerator, not the freezer.  Every time it is taken out for serving let it rest for one hour and reach room temperature. Then, again packed in plastic wrap let the rest of the cheese be stored in the refrigerator.  It will last for up to two or more months if kept in the refrigerator and adequately wrapped. For buying cheese in France and taking it home click here.

Traveling in the Basque country.

The French Basque country has great routes for Gastronomy as well as a Cider Road, for the unique Basque cider and cheese routes for the Basque cheeses including the equally famous Ossau-Iraty AOP Basque sheep’s cheese.
My suggestion would be to link up to one of the Basque gastronomic routes and then take more information on the nearest cider and cheese routes from the Tourist Information Office in the town you are in or nearest to. Using all that information you can make your own map and visit all the farms, restaurants or siderias, cider bars, that interest you.  A good English language website, to begin with, is:

another is:

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Bryan G. Newman
Copyright 2010, 2016.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman