Cheese of the month August 2015: Pyrénées Brebis from the Pays Basque and Béarn/F

This a monthly series which I have been publishing for years. You can subscribe here, to get the latest cheese delivered directly on to your screen. 

The height of summer in Heinzelcheese country calls out for something on the cheese plate that transports me to lush mountain pastures, to the symphony of bells, little streams, the wind swishing, animals munching… That’s why this month’s cheese comes from the Pyrenees. Or, to be more exact, their French-Atlantic side which divides up into the Basque country (bordering the sea) and the Béarn (inland).

PyrénéesBrebis1Here shepherds take their herds up the hills from May till September, and produce a whole family of mostly hard, round cheeses sold as Ossau-Iraty (an AOC), Abbaye de Bellocq, Matocq, Laruns, Ardi Gasna, or simply Pyrénées Brebis. With the exception of Ardi Gasna, which tends to be a touch firmer and taste wise shows a lovely citrus zest tang (due to the beautiful orange and yellow cultures on its rind), these are hard, but never dry cheeses. Typically weighing 4 to 5 kilograms, their paste is elastic and in spite of the sweet richness of the milk, rarely breaks into fat-glowing sweat, as tends to be the habit of hard sheep cheeses. I like to think that they reflect the Atlantic freshness of those pastures, as different to the Mediterranean side of the Pyrenees as Basque and Béarn culture are to Catalan. My cheese head and soul are up in those mountains, amongst the sheep, while my body is nibbling cheese on my balcony in Berlin… Wherever you may be, dear friends in cheese, I wish you a glorious summer.

I bought this as Pyrénées Brebis in Berlin at Vom Einfachen das Gute, and I remember tasting a gorgeous cheese of that family with Ihsan Gurdal at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge/MA.

This a monthly series which I have been publishing for years. You can subscribe here, to get the latest cheese delivered directly on to your screen. 

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