Our secrets of making Basque cheeses

From milk to cheese

24 hours to make a cheese, several months to mature it

Cheese making is a seasonal activity: sheep flocks only produce milk daily for eight months of the year, from December to August. More than 60% of the cheeses are produced over three months.

Step 1 - Milk collection from the producers, every day between 7pm and 5am.

Step 2 - Sorting of the milks: PDO for pasteurization, PDO raw milk, non PDO milk, organic milk.

Step 3 - Refrigeration, for a few hours before processing begins at 4:45 am.

Step 4 - Heat treatment: the milk is heated to 72° for 15 seconds using flash heat treatment that preserves the qualities of the milk.

Stage 5 - Work in an open vat of 4,000 to 6,000 liters (1.5 to 2.15 hours): the milk is brought to a temperature of 32° and placed in the vat. Ferments and rennet are added to the milk which gets a consistency similar to yogurt to become curd.

Step 6 - Rotating curd knives cut the curd into small pieces - the size of a corn kernel - to remove moisture and allow the cheese to be pressed.

Step 7 - Stirring: this allows the curd to drain and the whey to be exuded. The mix is then pressed to remove the whey from it.

Stage 8 - Cutting into cubes: the pressed curd is then portioned into cubes of the required size and weight.

Step 9 - The cubes are put into molds of different sizes.

Step 10 - Unmoulding: cheeses are removed from the mold the next day and placed in brine (8 to 48 hours depending on the size). The salt protects the cheese and gives it flavor.

Step 11 - The cheeses are put in the maturing cellars for 4 to 18 months.

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