Ossau-Iraty Cheese

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A French cheese made from raw (unpasteurized) sheep's milk, considered pure sheep's milk from Manech or Basco-Béarnaise ewes that are raised along the Pyrénées mountain range in the Basque region of France. Produced with a natural tan to brownish rind, Ossau-Iraty cheeses have a semi-hard to firm texture with off-white, ivory colored meat that may appear somewhat oily. Made without containing any air holes, the Ossau-Iraty cheeses provides a rich, buttery, somewhat nutty flavor that improves and becomes lightly fruity in taste if the cheese is cut so it is allowed to breathe before being eaten.

Three different sizes of this cheese are produced which include the petite size at 3 to 4 pounds, the intermediate or "fermier" (farm-made) size close to 8 pounds, and the largest size referred to as "non fermier" (not farm-made - instead cooperative or industrial) which may weight around 10 to 12 pounds. This cheese may also be labeled as Baigura Fermier cheese if produced adjacent to Baigura mountains; or a Brebis des Pyrénées meaning a sheep's (ewe's) milk cheese of the Pyrénées mountain region; or an Ossau-Iraty Brebis Pyrénées, an A.O.C designation for sheep's milk cheeses produced in A.O.C. designated areas adjacent to the Ossau river, the Iraty river, several towns named Iraty, and the region of Béarn, all located in Basque country which is part of the Western Pyrénées. Many of the cheeses, which are all made from the same recipe and look very similar, are named for the city or region where they are produced.

When serving, Ossau-Iraty cheese goes well with fruits, such as apples or pears, with cured meats such as dry sausages and prosciutto, or with fresh vegetables and olives. Robust red wines such as a hearty Bordeaux or a red Rhône are good wines to serve with this type of cheese.

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