Petit Basque – Sheep’s Milk Cheese

June 24, 2009 33 Comments

Petit Basque - Sheep's Milk Cheese

Petit Basque (P’tit Basque)

Most visits to our local Ardmore Farmer’s Market, I stop by Cheeseman Jack’s booth to talk about cheese, learn by tasting some cheese I’ve never had before and purchasing some to bring home to my wife and family. Recently I had the opportunity to try Petit Basque, a wonderful sheep’s milk cheese that is mild enough even for my kids.

Petit Basque is an pasteurized, uncooked hard sheep’s milk cheese produced in the Pyrenees Mountains, the mountains that form the border between France and Spain.

In Short

Type:  Sheep milk
Origin:  Pyrenees Mountains, France
Process:  brined and ripened 70 days
Texture:  smooth and firm
Shape:  Cylindrical, weighing approximately 1.25 pounds
Color:  Butter yellow
Rind:  Thin and covered with thin plastic to prevent mold
Flavor:  Mild, nutty and slightly fruity

The Rest of the Story

A lot of the great cheeses of the world have been around for hundreds of years.  Interestingly, although Petit Basque (sometimes spelled P’tit Basque) is made using traditional methods, it is a new cheese, having first been produced in 1997 by the large French dairy corporation Lactalis.

If you think you’ve never heard of Lactalis, think again.  Ever heard of Sorrento, President or Rondele cheese brands?  All of these brands are under the Lactalis umbrella.

So, why this new sheep milk cheese when there are plenty of well known sheep milk cheeses on the market (Spanish Manchego comes to mind immediately)?  Often, sheep milk cheese is a bit of an acquired taste.  It can be quite assertively “sheepy.”

Lactalis most likely wanted to produce a more accessible sheep milk cheese, one that would appeal to a broader segment of the American market””almost half of the Petit Basque produced is marketed in the United States.

A Little History

Petit Basque is made in the Pyrenees Mountains using the same techniques that local shepherds used hundreds of years ago. This “fromage de brebis” or sheep cheese was made from pure sheep’s milk the farmers put aside while milking their ewes. Two other famous sheep’s milk cheeses from the area are Ossau Iraty and Idiazabal.

Some Facts

Petit Basque is comprised of 45% fat and has a rich, buttery yellow color.  The cheese is made from curds from uncooked, pasteurized ewe’s milk.

Once pressed into molds and dried, it is brined for two hours and then cold aged for 70 days before being either waxed or covered in thin plastic to prevent mold. The small cylindrical shaped cheese each weigh about 1¼ to 1½ pounds.

What To Expect

When you look at the exterior of Petit Basque you will notice it is has a light yellow butter color appearance that is smooth and slightly oily. When you cut open a wheel of Petit Basque, you will notice that the interior is very smooth with no “eyes” (think Swiss cheese).  The aroma is slightly nutty with some caramel notes.  Biting into the cheese, some have described it as having a smooth taffy-like feel in the mouth.

What to Serve With

Since Petit Basque is a relatively mild sheep milk cheese, it is a good one to start with if you are unfamiliar with sheep milk cheeses.  The flavor is mildly “sheepy,” nutty and somewhat fruity.

It would be lovely on a fruit and cheese platter, especially with stone fruit such as peaches, apricots or even cherries.  It can also be served on some French bread with ham and tomato or on serving board with cured meats, olives and paté.

I typically serve cheese with whatever wine I’m drinking but I have read Petit Basque goes well with most red wines including Beajolais, Merlot and Viogner.

Where To Find Petit Basque

Try your local supermarket or cheese shop and I think I’ve seen it at Costco too.

Buying cheese online

Online Sources: Cheese

Convenience - Selections - Quality - Gift Giving - Corporate Events

I strongly urge you to find a good cheese shop near you so you can get to know your cheesemongers and they get to know you. However, if you don't have a good local cheese shop or they don't have some of the cheeses I recommend, here are some online sources for you. Be careful to buy the best product you can afford so you don't end up with an inferior product. The links below are affiliate links.
Di Bruno Bros Gourmet Cheeses & Meats
Di Bruno Brothers is close to home to me. They have been in Philadelphia since 1939 and prided themselves on bringing amazing food to the city of Philadelphia and drawing food lovers together in their ‘home.’ They also have a store just outside of Philly where I get most of my cheese and cured meats. If you can't find a particular cheese in your market, most likely Di Bruno Bros. will.

In 2002, a group of classically trained and talented Chefs found themselves as Executive Chefs in kitchens across the country. While creating their menus and gourmet specials it became obvious that certain quality products they had found in specific regions of the country and around the world were not always available to them. They quickly began to realize the value of getting the best, freshest and origin specific gourmet products to their kitchens and more importantly, to their customers. That need and passion for the freshest and finest gourmet products evolved into For the Gourmet.




Last modified on Wed 11 July 2018 12:40 pm

Filed in: Hard Cheeses

Comments (33)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. sammy says:

    What is the best method to store after cutting?

  2. RG says:

    Great question and one I’ve asked Cheeseman Jack. He said to wrap it up in plastic wrap or better yet, wrap it up in the paper it was sold in, that is if you purchase a chunk of cheese and not a whole piece, and then wrap that up in plastic wrap.

    I have been using a Food Savor system at home and find my cheeses last much longer. It is a little bit more effort to take out the appliance but I am not throwing out as much cheese.

  3. earl le tissier says:

    May the rind of the P’tit Basque cheese be eaten. Of course the wax coating has been removed. Thanks Earl

    Hi Earl, as we discussed in our emails, I don’t advise it and I don’t think it tastes very good. – RG

  4. Catherine says:

    I think the rind is FINE to eat.

  5. Lisa says:

    I always eat the rind. It doesn’t taste that different from the cheese itself. It certainly doesn’t taste like the icky rind on St. Andre et al.

  6. marc says:

    Am American born from a French family. I was always chastised for not eating the rind…until I asked my French cousins & a hotelier there… they don’t eat it either although a majority of French probably do eat it. If you like the taste of the rind, then eat it and if you don’t, then don’t. Hard core cheesies may say you have to but its OK to ignore them.

    Hi Marc, thanks for your input. Great advice! – RG

  7. rk says:

    Label on Costco Petit Basque states that milk was pasteurized.

    You are correct and thank you for pointing this out. I went back and did a little research and learned Petit Basque does come from pasteurized milk. – RG

  8. Rikke says:

    I just discovered this cheese today – it’s absolutely wonderful! My nine-year-old really likes it, too. Thank you for sharing your serving tips.

    You are very welcome Rikke – RG

  9. KP says:

    About a month ago I was told to avoid all cow’s milk products–very distressing as I LOVE cheese. I found one or two goat cheeses that were ok, but not great, I found this cheese yesterday at Costco and it is wonderful! Trying to pace myself but after a month without cheese it isn’t easy. Any other suggestions for good non-cow cheese would be most appreciated.

    Hi KP, I’ll post some more of my favorite non cow cheeses soon. Thanks for your interest. – RG

  10. Cheryl says:

    P’tit Basque is one of my all-time favorite cheeses! I usually buy it at Costco but recently found it at Fresh and Easy. Costco’s price is approx. $5 less per lb, but you have to buy a whole wheel. At Fresh and Easy it is packaged in smaller wedges which is good if you want to buy just a little to try it.

  11. Norm says:

    Love this cheese. Goes very well with roasted chicken, thin slices honey glazed ham as a grilled cheese sandwich. I have goats and sheep which I do milk and play with making cheese, any clue as to the culture used in the make for this cheese?

  12. Mary McLelland says:

    The best cheese I have ever had!

  13. Ken says:

    Having some now with a Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages. Very nice.

  14. Sharon says:

    Best cheese ever!! $10.99/lb at trader joes; sold in small wedges. So mad they were out of stock as of this morning. Next best price is Costco at $12.99/lb sold as a whole wheel. I’ve been pairing it with my fave Cab wine of the week. Willing to try manchego and Comte next. Who knew I was a cheese snob?:)

  15. Maura Rolland says:

    What is the rennet used for P’tit Basque?

  16. Katey says:

    What type of rennet is used in P’tit Basque? I do not use animal rennet and just saw this cheese, but the label doesn’t specify.

  17. Ralph Vigilotti says:

    My wife fell in love with Petit Basque Yogurt while in Provence, are you able to import ? I have been unable to find any French yogurt around NYC, but did find it in Aruba. Do you know of anyone selling in the USA ?

  18. Wally Pereyra says:

    I serve my P’tit Basque on my wooden cheese curler. It makes a beautiful presentation and the cheese flowers go beautifully on crackers of choice. I recommend using a plastic dome to keep the cheese fresh, even when cleaning the knife. Bosca of Holland sells several styles of cheese curlers and the dome. Enjoy!

  19. Morgen says:

    You can find an amazing Basque cheese at Trader Joes. It’s called Mini Basque at $11.99 a pound and an average size of 3 quarters of a pound. It is very delicious! I just bought it and am savoring it for the first time with a glass of dry buttery French wine. Very much recommend this cheese.

  20. Tony Z says:

    Found this great cheese at Costco. Great price and took it to our cabin. Dog loves the rind and just amazing how Costco is so much cheaper than anyone else!

  21. peggy s says:

    We received this cheese as a gift in the mail! Does it need to be refrigerated?

  22. M Lipcsik says:

    I too stumbled upon P’tit Basque at Costco and now consider it my all-time favorite. I’m one of the people who enjoy the taste of the rind. One question…has anyone found an easy way to remove the wax coating while leaving the rind intact? I’ve purchased a few wheels where the plastic peeled off smoothly, in large sheets, but generally it’s bound rather tightly to the rind and requires a great deal of scraping. Regards

    • Hi M Lipcsik, after reading your question, I reached out to one of my favorite cheesemongers, Cheeseman Jack. He is not a fan of eating the rind of P’tit Basque but he was referring to aged P’tit Basque not the young P’tit Basque you find at Costco that does have a wax over it’s rind. Although he is not a fan of the rind on this cheese, he understands there are many who do. He offered advice to remove the rind but not just the wax coating so I did a little research and found this:

      “Simply cut a slice of the cheese wheel or bar and then peel the wax out of the cheese slice before eating. It is very easy to peel the wax.
      Wash the cheese in warm water and all the wax will melt away.
      Peel the wax with a knife if the cheese wax does not come out smoothly with hand.”

      • Hilary says:

        Costco P’tit Basque comes in rounds about 1.25 pounds each. The wax is very thin so you should use a small chef’s pairing knife to help to get it off. We would NOT run warm water on the cheese to remove the wax. Cut a wedge from the top to the bottom of the round. It’s easier to get the wax off that way. Let the chesse come to room temperature a little to get the wax to loosen. DO wrap in plastic wrap the portion that is exposed and place it in the cheese section of your fridge. The rind is very tasty. See if you can get used to it as it’s a pretty expensive cheese. Just paid $20 for a round last Friday.

  23. Southampton UK says:

    I tried this beautiful chesse to which is absolutely amazing and even better it was on promotion in my local Waitrose.

  24. Leslie Ruen says:

    Does the cheese melt easily?

    • If you slice it thin or coarsely grate it, it will melt just fine.

    • Hi Natalie, thanks for that warning. Not only was it too much salt, it was just too much chili for home cooks. The original recipe would have feed a small Olympic team. I found this recipe online from Zane that is more manageable for home cooks. Thanks for your comments. One way to make it less salty is to add a starch like a potato or even a little bit of flour. You can also try adding some cream.

  25. David says:

    Its vital to always eat cheese at room temperature. If it’s cold the flavor is suppressed. This is obvious, but I just wanted to mention it.

Leave a Reply