Etorki is the leading Basque cheese in America, made with only the finest-quality sheep’s milk. It symbolizes all the strengths and riches of its rustic origin. Etorki has a smooth, velvety texture and rich, hazelnut (almost burnt caramel-like) flavor. Its aroma is sweet and buttery, and the cheese is voluptuous on the tongue. Because of its supple texture, Etorki is perfect in recipes calling for grated or melted cheese. For those allergic to cow’s milk, Etorki makes an excellent substitute
Etorki is characterized by its ivory-colored center, firm but supple texture and thin, brownish-orange rind. Etorki is slightly oily from the high butterfat content, which comprises 33% of the cheese’s total weight. It is also a very supple cheese; you can bend it a bit without breaking. Etorki has a cylindrical shape about 10 inches diameter and 4 inches height. According to tradition of the Basque shepherds - Etorki should be served with black cherry jam on top. Etorki is a popular choice for cheese platters(Serve with pickles, spicy olives or cured meats), but it is equally good in a salad made with yellow apples and sweet pepper preserves, with Bayonne ham and Espelette pepper, or in a terrine with eggplant. All Pyrenees cheese go well with apples and pears and make a great picnic or lunch cheese.
Etorki, which means “origin” in Basque, is a pasteurized sheep's milk cheese that has been produced in the heart of the Basque region of southwestern France for over 4000 years. The cheese is made from local sheep's milk in Mauléon, in the Atlantic Pyrenees. More specifically, Etorki is made from the milk of black- or red-faced Manech ewes. This breed has lived in the region for thousands of years and produces superb milk. The ewes' milk is exceptional, but there is only a scant supply: It takes 22 ewes to provide the same amount of milk obtained by the milking of a single cow. A total of 6 gallons of milk is needed to produce one wheel of Etorki. The scarcity of ewes' milk and the limited milking season – December to July – offer a partial explanation for the higher price of cheese made from sheep's milk in comparison to that made from cow's milk. And Etorki is composed of over 98% ewes' milk.
Etorki is made from pasteurized sheep’s milk and pulp pressed, not cooked, then matured for a minimum of seven weeks. This rich, fragrant, high-quality milk is collected from 620 local dairy farmers.
The manufacturing period of the cheese corresponds to that of the milk: from December to July. The five main stages of the manufacturing process are:
1. Curdling: The ewes’ milk is heated and then pressed by master cheese makers.
2. Curd-cutting and stirring: The resulting curds are cut and stirred to facilitate the draining of the whey.
3. Molding and pressing: The curds are then placed into perforated molds and mechanically pressed to drain off the remaining whey. This is how the cheeses take on their final shape and the characteristic of being “pressed cheese.”
4. Salting: The cheeses are soaked in brine for two hours to make sure they are properly preserved, then rubbed in salt and wrapped in cloths, that were also soaked in brine.
5. Ripening: The cheeses, ripening at a controlled temperature and humidity, are regularly turned and brushed. During this period, the special aromas develop. Ripening takes from 7 to 9 weeks. The cheeses are then aged anywhere from 3 to 6 months. Master cheese makers oversee the manufacturing process. Every cheese is turned by hand.