Petit Basque (sometimes spelled P'tit Basque) is a mild, unpasteurized, uncooked, hard sheep's milk cheese, produced in the Pyrenees Mountains, which form the border between France and Spain. A relatively new cheese, having first been produced in 1997 by Lactalis, a large French dairy corporation, it is made using the same techniques that local shepherds used hundreds of years ago. "Fromage de Brebis" (sheep cheese) was then made from pure sheep's milk that farmers put aside while milking their ewes. Petit Basque is still hand-made from curds from uncooked, unpasteurized ewe's milk. Once pressed into molds and dried, it is brined for two hours and then aged for 70 days in a cold storage room or cave. Before leaving storage, the cured cheese is coated with a thin plastic skin that keeps it from drying out and prevents mold on the natural rind. Each small cylindrical cheese weights about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds.
The exterior of Petit Basque is light yellow butter in colour, smooth, and slightly oily. The interior, which is buttery yellow, is smooth and firm, with no "eyes." The aroma is slightly nutty with some caramel notes, and some have described the cheese as having a smooth taffy-like feel in the mouth. Its flavour is mildly "sheepy," nutty, and somewhat fruity. Since it is a relatively mild sheep's milk cheese, it is a good one for the uninitiated to try. Petit Basque is lovely on a fruit and cheese platter, especially with stone fruit such as peaches, apricots or cherries, and makes a welcome addition to a serving board with cured meats, olives and pâté. It can also be served for lunch with sliced tomatoes, olive oil, and a hearty bread or sliced on a ham and tomato sandwich on French bread. For dessert, it pairs well with black cherry preserves or sliced apples and pears.
Wine Pairings: Petit Basque goes well with most red wines, including Beajolais, Merlot and Viogner. Other wine pairing suggestions include Grenache, Burgundy, Bordeaux and Madiran.
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Delivery time: 1 to 2 weeks
This product is made from unpasteurized sheep's milk.