Ossau-Iraty – Sheep’s Milk Cheese from France

Ossau-Iraty – France

I discovered Ossau-Iraty at C’est Cheese Please in Cambridge (Ontario, Canada). Ossau-Iraty is imported from France.

Ossau Iraty Cheese Sheep's Milk Cheese from France

Ossau Iraty Cheese Sheep’s Milk Cheese from France

This is a Sheep’s milk cheese that has held the French AOC designation (appellation d’origine controlee) since 1980. It is one of only three sheep’s milk cheese with the AOC status in France.

I found an informative French website at www.ossau-iraty.fr that describes the production of Ossau-Iraty. There are multiple producers of Ossau-Iraty. The cheese that I bought and tried from C’est Cheese Please was produced by Onetik, located in Macaye, France.

Ossau-Irity is produced in the Pyrénées-Atlantique department of the Aquitaine region of Southwest France.

Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France
Pyrenees-Atlantiques, France

It takes 5-6 liters of milk to make one kilo of Ossau-Iraty. Rennet is added to the sheep’s milk to form curds. The curd is cut and separated from the whey by heating. The curds are then pressed, drained and placed in a mold creating it’s final form. The cheese is salted and aged in Pyrenees mountain caves for over ninety days.

What does Ossau Iraty taste like? I found this cheese to be sweet, buttery and nutty with hints of toasted hazelnut.  It has a wonderful rich and smooth finish. As my cheese palette develops, I am appreciating sheep’s milk cheese more and more.

This cheese melts well. It can lift a grilled cheese sandwich or a cheese burger to the next level.  The French often accompany Ossau Iraty with black cherry jam. For a wine pairing, the C’est Cheese Please website recommends Sauvignon Blanc, Madrians, Pinot Noir, Chianti or Merlot wines.

Ossau-Irity is a very good Sheep’s milk cheese. For me, this is a benchmark cheese to measure other sheep’s milk cheese against. I recommend it.