The Basque Country Cheese Route, an enchanting road trip around Ossau Iraty

Larceveau-Arros-Cibits
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Do you like cheese ? Let's take the Basque Country Cheese Route together, to discover one of the most popular local products L'Ossau Iraty Road Trip to meet the beautiful landscapes of the interior Basque Country and cheese producers, this tourist route has it all.

The guide of the Basque Country supports the local economy and wants you to live new experiences. During this Ossau Iraty tasting road trip, not only will you taste many sweets, but you will also meet atypical encounters and you will discover authentic customs, in an exceptional setting.


Opening photo of the article : Cheeses from Fromagerie des Bergers de Saint-Michel


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The star of the Basque Country : Ossau-Iraty

Flocks of sheep have long occupied mountain meadows. Its breeding is very old and dates back almost 3000 years. These first shepherds appreciated their tasty and fragrant milk, knew the technique of curdling and knew how to make fine and delicate cheeses.

Since the 17th century, Ossau Iraty is the symbol of an alliance. It is made from a mixture of milk from sheep from the valleys of Ossau in Béarn and Iraty in the Basque Country. These two regions offer different environments, from the Aubisque pass in Béarn and its high mountain pastures, to the Iraty forest, in the heart of its valley. These are therefore two pastoral traditions that come together to make this exceptional cheese.


Cheese   Cheese

Ossau Iraty, the emblematic cheese of the Basque Country ! Photo @Fromagerie Istara in Larceveau

Our good addresses and tips for a successful road trip

Between the iodized air of Labourd, the valleys of Lower Navarre and the Pyrenean mountains of Soule, the Basque Country is by nature a land of agriculture and breeding. But the sheep is not just a means of subsistence there. A whole culture has been forged around this mountain way of life and these ancestral practices. We invite you to discover this pastoral tradition, going from farms to shepherds' huts, while tasting good cheeses. We are starting our cheese road trip from West to East, from Saint-Jean-de-Luz to the gates of Béarn !

To plan your route, here is the map of the cheese route (fr). Before you start, be sure to check out the news and the list of open producers (fr). By clicking on the producers indicated on the map, you access their file and we advise you to call them to check the opening conditions.

On the Ossau-Iraty Cheese Route, 110 stages await you in the Basque Country and Béarn. Whether they are farms, cheese factories, or ripening cellars, there is really a choice... We have made a small selection for you, with our best addresses :  

  • In Labourd, in Hasparren, the Komeiteko Borda Farm produces Ossau-Iraty AOC cheeses, suckling lamb from the Pyrenees and duck fat from the South-West Label Rouge. On reservation, you can enjoy them at the inn.
  • In Macaye, at the Fromagerie Onetik organize visits to the farm during the summer.
  • In Basse-Navarre, in Larceveau-Arros-Cibits, Fromagerie Istara makes you discover its traditional know-how, perpetuated for almost 60 years.
  • Next to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, the Fromagerie des Bergers de Saint-Michel produces Ossau-Iraty cheeses from organic milk.
  • To appreciate these cheeses in a different way, Fromager Christophe offers surprising combinations.

Cheese   Cheese

Fromagerie Onetik and its pasture sheep ; Photo @Fromagerie Onetik  

Cheese   Cheese

The Fromagerie des Bergers de Saint-Michel and their organic cheeses ! ; Photo @Fromagerie des Bergers de Saint-Michel

Choosing your Ossau-Iraty, quite an art...

Ossau Iraty comes from a secular recipe, today protected by the " Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée ". Nevertheless, each producer brings his personal touch and gives his unique character and personality to his cheeses.  

The feeding of the ewes is also a determining factor of its taste qualities. There is therefore a seasonality of the cheeses. In winter the ewes consume more hay and less fresh grass. In spring, the ewes go up in the summer pastures, these pastures of the Pyrenean mountains, and feast on young shoots and flowers. The milk takes on liquorice and wild thyme flavors which give an incomparable taste to the cheeses produced during this period.
 

Did you knowThe estives are pastures, located at an altitude of more than 1000 meters, in the valleys of Ossau, Aspe and Barétous. During the transhumance, the sheep roam the mountain paths to reach these summer quarters! This route gives the opportunity to festivals and events in the villages crossed. Once there, they are milked in open-air parks. The cheeses are made in shepherds' huts, called “ cayolar ” or “ etxola ”. These cheeses, with the floral scents of the meadows, are protected by a Estive ” mark, affixed directly to the rind.  

The ripening determines the strength of the cheese. A young Ossau-Iraty, between 3 and 4 months old, has a milky and slightly sour taste. Between 6 and 8 months, it is considered to be fully ripe and it is more fruity. Beyond 8 months, Ossau-Iraty is said to be " old ". With age, they gain strength and character.


Cheese

The Pyrenees offer a whole range of cheeses to discover. 

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How to taste Ossau-Iraty ?

To reveal all the flavors of Ossau-Iraty, you can decorate it with a fig jam, a few black cherries from the Basque Country or an Espelette pepper jelly. And if you are looking for the ideal drink, it is the white wines of " Jurançon ", " Vic-Bihl " or " Saint-Mont " which will enhance them the best. Some also appreciate it with a round, slightly tannic red, such as " Irouléguy ". The Basque Country guide has tested it for you, here is our report on the Irouléguy cellar.


jam

Cherry jam from the Basque Country  

The Basque Country has a culinary tradition that matches its local products. Ossau-Iraty melts in the mouth but also in the oven. It brings smoothness to an omelet, gratin in your pies and quiches... Its sweetness will enhance all kinds of dishes. It really can be cooked in all sauces... And indeed, we make divine sauces to accompany white meat, on potatoes or quite simply pasta! Are you lacking inspiration ? The official site of Ossau Iraty (fr) reveals its best recipes. You will also find it on the site of the tourist office of 64, Béarn and the Basque Country, in its " pure sheep gourmet moments " (fr). To combine these good cheeses with other sweets, we invite you to discover the gastronomic delights of the Basque Country, its local products and regional specialties.

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We arrive at the end of this beautiful Ossau-Iraty cheese road. There are many other cheeses and local products to discover in the Basque Country. You will surely come back from this gastronomic getaway, sated and your gluttony satisfied!

Did you like our article ? Find more on our Blog

Follow us on the Guide du Pays Basque Facebook page and on Instagram @guidedupaysbasque.

 

Article written by Stéphanie Tempier for the Guide du Pays Basque.


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