Idiazábal cheese is a fatty cheese made exclusively with raw milk from Latxa and Carranzana sheep breeds, pressed with a minimum maturation period of two months. Depending on the area, it may be smoked. It is a typical cheese of the Basque Country and Navarre, except for the municipalities that are part of the Roncal Valley.
Idiazábal cheese has been protected by the PDO since 1987, and we can differentiate it by the corresponding logo. It is a cylindrical cheese, with flat sides and a hard, smooth rind. It is pale yellow in colour; dark brown for those who have undergone smoking. Idiazábal cheese has a homogeneous colour, between whitish and pale yellow. It may have irregular holes distributed randomly and in small numbers.
Its aroma is intense, milky and smoky if it has been smoked. In the mouth it is balanced, with a taste of mature milk and natural rennet. In addition, Idiazábal cheese has a slight spicy touch and a medium salinity.
Seven litres of raw unpasteurised sheep’s milk are needed to make one kilo of cheese. Animal rennet is used to coagulate the milk. Its production is seasonal, following the biological rhythms of the sheep. Between March and June is the period of maximum milk production.
We can find this Idiazábal cheese in the market as a whole piece or in wedges. In any of the formats, its consumption is recommended due to its high calcium content, important in the prevention of osteoporosis. Besides, its low content in carbohydrates makes us produce more saliva, helping to prevent dental caries.
There is archaeological evidence that grazing existed in the Basque Country around 2,200 BC. There are also medieval documents on the use of the pastures and the ways in which they were exploited. Idiazábal is a small town in Gipuzkoa where shepherds sold their summer cheese production at the end of the high altitude grazing when they had to return to the winter pastures.
The area of production of Idiazábal Cheese includes the natural areas where Latxa and Carranzana sheep are spread in Alava, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Navarre, except for the municipalities that form part of the Roncal Valley.
It is a mountainous territory, with heights of 1,500 metres, which makes communications difficult and has favoured the pastoral system. The predominant oceanic climate, with abundant rainfall, favours the development of vegetation, which is used by the sheep.
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