The Pyrénées mountain range sits as a natural boundary between France and Spain, rising up from the land just north of Barcelona and reaching its fingers west into the Basque Country. Culturally unique from Spain, the Basque region’s identity is shaped in part by strong agricultural traditions, evidenced in Basque cheesemaking.
Basque Country possesses three distinct climates, including the cool, damp conditions that lend a particular lushness to the Pyrénées foothills, where heirloom goats and sheep graze. In some small towns here, livestock outnumber people, though cows are fairly hard to come by. The graceful, long-haired Pyrenean goat, an icon of Pyrénées farming, produces rich milk that’s been used in traditional Basque cheese recipes for centuries.
Inspired by a cheese traditionally made for the Basque village markets, two-month-aged Ahuntz Ederra is receiving more recognition stateside, thanks to the importers at Peterson Cheese. Meaning “beautiful goat” in Basque, the tomme-style Ahuntz Ederra has a natural rind and a subtle flavor profile reminiscent of grass, ocean breezes, and light honey. It’s the perfect table cheese, sure to please a crowd when paired with salted crackers, a tart fruit preserve, or simply on its own. The clean, off-white paste is easy on the eyes as well.
In order to tease out some of the cheese’s sweeter notes, we’re pairing it with a slightly spiced pear syrup. A subtle fruit by nature, pear brings gentle honey notes to the table, while ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon enliven the bouquet with bright spice. This syrup provides the perfect foil to savory Ahuntz Ederra, resulting in a pairing you’ll want to recreate again and again.
Spiced Pear Simple Syrup
- 1 cup pear purée
- 1 ⁄4 cup Demerara sugar
- 1 ⁄2 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 pinch grated nutmeg
- ►Combine ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the syrup has thickened.
- ►Strain, discard ginger and cinnamon, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Makes about ½ cup. Leftover syrup will keep, refrigerated, for about 2 weeks.