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  • Made from unpasteurized sheep's milk

  • Country of origin: Spain

  • Region: Basque Country

  • Type: hard, artisan

  • Texture: compact and open

  • Rind: natural

  • Colour: pale yellow

  • Flavour: buttery, nutty, smokey

  • Aroma: aromatic, smokey, sweet

  • Vegetarian: no

  • Synonyms: Idiazabalgo gazta, Queso Idiazabal la Vasco Navarra

  • Alternative spellings: Idiazabel

Idiazabal (Idiazabel or Queso Idiazabal La Vasco Navarra) 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, sheep migrate to higher pastures to graze on the blossoming, new grass. During this time, the artisanal cheese makers milk the sheep, make the cheese and leave it in the rafters to mature for at least two months. Matured Idiazabal has a hard natural rind, and a compact texture, with a few pinprick holes. The rind carries the marks of the wooden moulds in which it was drained. It has a somewhat smokey flavour but is usually un-smoked. The characteristic, smoky flavour is the result of the cheese having been stored near the fireplaces. The taste of the cheese is reminiscent of burnt caramel and bacon. Idiazabal pairs well with red wine and cider.

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