World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Esquirrou from France 🇫🇷
Made from: Sheep's Milk
Texture: Medium hard
Taste: buttery, fruity, herbaceous, nutty
Aging: minimum 3 months
Size: 5 lb
Season: Summer - Winter
Esquirrou (pronounced ehs-keer-oo), a hard sheep's milk cheese crafted by Michael Touyarou at Mauleon Fromagerie in the Pyrénées Region of France is the winner of the recent 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest held yearly in Madison, Wisconsin. The winner of the overall top cheese, besting a record-breaking 3,402 cheese entries in this year's contest with the contest's announcement describing its flavor as having "nutty notes and a toasted wheat aroma," Esquirrou earned a score of 98.376 out of 100 to take home the gold.
Esquirrou or Ossau-iraty is a cheese made from pure ewe's milk, a whole milk, where the cheese is pressed and has a hard texture. It is produced in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques and in towns of the Hautes-Pyrénées.
This cheese is native to the Basque Country and Béarn, the name Ossau-Iraty originates from the Pic du Midi d'Ossau and the Iraty forest.
This typical cheese offers a wide range of aromas. Flavors are herbaceous, nutty and fruity if the produce is from winter while the summer cheeses tend to reveal aromas of grass and flowers.
This cheese, a smaller version of the umbrella variety Ossau-Iraty, is indigenous to France’s Pays Basque. These cheeses are made from a single breed of sheep, the black- and red-head manech [yes, in French, they’re literally tête noire and tête rouge]. It is aged for a minimum of three months with the smaller 5 lb format developing its aromas differently than its larger cousins—most Ossau-Iraty are wheels of 10-15 lbs.
The cheese of Equirrou finds its origin in the pastoral and cheese traditions of the Basque Country and Béarn.
In the Middle Ages, cheese tomes are used as money to pay for leases or sales contracts and represent the first source of income for shepherds.
Over the centuries, the product evolves little, the structures of the same. Each shepherd family makes its own cheese and sells it.
How to enjoy it
Equirrou is best enjoyed with a glass of Chinon, Faugères or Jurançon
Source: Food&Wine, Au Fromager de Rungis, Fromagerie Barthélemy