Last weekend, we had the pleasure of visiting a shepherd and his family in the Aralar mountain range. After an amusing hunt for bread on Saturday afternoon (when everything was closed for siesta), we embarked on a 6.5 km hike from the village of Lekunberri. In fact, it was this very hike that had us doubting our ability (and desire!) to experience this event as a family. However, as many of you know, children are full of surprises! With the help of his father’s shoulders and some strategic encouragement from his fellow hikers, our little Henri proved to be a trooper. Our family had the honour of being joined by two new friends, one of which is the president of the Quebec Basque Association. As a group, we made our way to the remote home of Jon and Martina, and their two boys: Ortzi and Elorri. Upon arriving, we got straight to work and filmed Jon milking 180 blonde latxa sheep—by hand! Exhausted just by watching Jon in action, we then observed as he made cheese from this very sheep milk. From the heating of the milk to the soaking of the cheese blocks in brine, we were fascinated by every step. We were then graciously kept overnight and had the opportunity to join Jon at dawn as he herded his sheep back to the farm for yet another milking session and more cheese making. Jon and Martina milk their sheep and make cheese twice a day, producing a total of 10 cheeses a day, which sell for approximately $30 each. We were amazed by the amount of work involved in making this artisanal cheese and, from now on, will look at (and eat!) cheese differently. It goes without saying that this lesson on cheese took place in one of the most spectacular settings we have ever witnessed.
Learn more in the film THE BASQUE COUNTRY: A NATION WITHOUT BORDERS.