As I have oft mentioned in the past, one of the best parts of being a cheesemonger is getting to introduce our customers to new and exciting foods. Once somebody finds a cheese in our case that they enjoy, we love to introduce them to other cheeses in they might like that are less well known but equally as amazing. Manchego, for example, is a popular and tasty sheep’s milk from Spain that can act as a “gateway” cheese into the world of other ewe’s milk products that may fly a little farther under the cheese radar. Many people love Manchego, but may have a hard time even identifying other sheep’s milk cheeses out there. But we are here to change that! The world is full of amazing sheep’s milk cheeses, and our Cheese of the Month is a great example.
Ossau Iraty Fermier (pronounced “oh-so ee-rah-tee fur-me-ay”) is one of a family of sheep cheeses made in the Basque region of France, just across the border from Spain. It is a cheese whose production dates back to at least the first century B.C. Wheels of Ossau are made by more than 2,000 small farms/dairies in the region. Among all these producers, the Basco Bearnaise Co-op is one of a few operations dealing with farmstead raw milk version of Ossau. Nestled in the Pyrenees mountains, wheels of raw milk Ossau Iraty are made by small farms with milk from the farmer’s own herd (what’s know as “farmstead”, or “fermier” in French) and then sent to Basco Bearnaise Co-op to age.
The result is a dense cheese with a smooth, rich paste and full-bodied in flavor that has become a staff favorite. Slightly sweet with a fruity, grassy tang, Ossau Iraty is incredibly wine & beer friendly. Perfect for these cold winter months, Ossau Iraty is a great cheese for a night in by the fire with your favorite drink. This cheese can be yours for the low, low price of $19 a pound (usually $22). Be sure to pick some up before the weather gets too bad!