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Idiazabal is a traditional, farmhouse, hard cheese made from raw milk of Latxa or Carranza sheep in the Basque and Navarra regions of northern Spain. Named after the village of Idiazabal, the cheese received Spanish D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) in 1987.

In summer, the sheep migrate to higher pastures to graze on the blossoming, new grass. During this time, the artisanal cheesemakers milk the sheep, make the cheese and leave it in the rafters to mature. At the end of summer when the cheesemakers return back to the lowlands with their sheep, the cheese has ripened and is ready for sale.

Idiazabal is produced in the shape of a cylinder, with a smooth and hard natural rind that is pale yellow to amber in color. The cheese has a compact texture, with a few pinprick holes. It is dry, but not crumbly, and feels pleasantly oily in the mouth. The rind carries the marks of the wooden moulds in which it was drained. The characteristic, smoky flavor is the result of the cheeses having been stored near the fireplaces. There were no chimneys in the simple mountain huts, so the cheeses absorbed the sweet, aromatic smoke. The taste of the cheese is reminiscent of burnt caramel and bacon. It pairs well with red wine and cider.

  • Made from sheep's milk
  • Country of origin: Spain
  • Region: Basque Country
  • Alternative spellings: Idiazabalgo gazta
  • Type: hard, artisan
  • Texture: open and supple
  • Rind: natural
  • Color: pale yellow

Other Spanish cheeses:

Top photos from Twitter

Nov 02
Idiazabal (etiqueta negra) #cheese by a small producer who won the people's award at the Artzai Gazta competition.
Sep 09
@plainspaddock You need to eat milk-fed lamb to keep Idiazabal cheese production viable. Thanks @ArzakRestaurant
Aug 30
Another wonderful gift of #Idiazabal cheese from @NieveMikel . Basque Country produce great with #membrillo
Aug 26
Dry croissant of red fruits and idiazabal cheese ice cream at Azurmendi in Basque Country, Spain
Aug 25
Tartare of Iberico, idiazabal cheese and lime at ni neu (Mugaritz's casual eatery) in San Sebastian
Aug 14
@bravas_tapas version 1.0 of our idiazabal cheese and black truffle baskets...soon to be stuffed with yumminess.
Aug 13
A tasty first course: Serrano Ham, Idiazabal Cheese & Tomato Jam Toast
Jul 20
Late lunch .. eggs, oregano, a drizzle of tasty @Oligiano evoo n shavings of Idiazabal cheese. #ImisstheBasquecountry
Jul 13
"Melt in the mouth" foie with shavings of Idiazabal (smoked basque cheese) @milcatas Muy rico!
Jul 03
Looking for your perfect burger cheese for #fourthofjuly? Meet Idiazabal, a lightly smoked Basque sheep's milk. YUMMM
Jun 13
Leave it to the Basques to invent Idiazabal cheese-flavored ice cream. At least I didn't get the bacalao al pil-pil.
Jun 04
A reason to celebrate – its National Cheese Day! Try our Serrano Ham, Idiazabal Cheese, and Tomato Jam Toast plate!
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