Istara’s Family of Cheeses – Part One – Ossau Iraty

April 14, 2009

Istara's Ossau-Iraty

Istara's Ossau-Iraty

Legend has it that Aristee, the sheep herder son of Apollo created this cheese.


Today the best version of this cheese is produced by the Benedictine Monks of the Belloc Abbey in the Western Pyrenees. You may recall my thoughts about why Monks produce the best cheeses, wines and liqueurs and based on this cheese, the defense rests…

This French semi-firm cheese is probably the least known of the AOC designated cheeses, a designation it received in 1980. As of the late 1990s there were only about 2000 farmers producing the milk for this exquisite cheese. This is a creamy and nutty cheese with a gentle richness that is quite pleasing. Its rind is edible with a slightly tart aftertaste. The cheese is a soft, light ivory color with the fragrance of toasted hazelnuts. To develop the nutty flavor and fragrance, it should be aged for at least ninety days.

This cheese is so pleasing to the palate that it can be served before or after dinner; actually it can be served before and after dinner.

The Lady’s friend, John, claims this as his favorite cheese. John has very good taste in this feline foodie’s humble opinion…and I’m not blowing smoke…well, maybe a little…

A bit of trivia: In Pays Basque and Bearn, the nickname of Ossau Iraty is “farmer’s dessert”.

I give Istara’s Ossau Iraty 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving suggestions: Excellent as a table cheese with a marmalade or fig spread such as Ficoco or Dalmatia Fig-Orange Spread. It also goes well with proscuitto and a baguette…of course, what doesn’t go well with proscuitto and baguettes…nothing in this feline foodie’s book of “what goes well with…”.

Wine pairings: Margaux or a smoky Pouilly-Fume

Fat content: 50%

Awards: 2006 World Cheese Award

Source: Raw Sheep’s’ Milk; primarily the milk of the Manech naiser ewes

Up next: Istara’s P’tit Basque


2 Responses to “Istara’s Family of Cheeses – Part One – Ossau Iraty”

  1. […] Belgium Trappist cheese; Etorki, a sheep milk’s cheese from the Pyrennes and similar to Ossau Iraty and St. Arnoux, a smoked, spreadable cheese from Northern France that is a by-product of […]

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