Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Barinaga Ranch: Excellent Basque Cheese From Marin

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 3:30 PM


Just as the Bay Area has a shorts-to-sweater array of micro climates, it has a stunning selection of micro-cultures of cheesmaking. You can find examples of cheese styles from countries around the world and milks across the animal spectrum throughout the Bay.

Barinaga Ranch in West Marin adds Basque cheese to the choices. Owner Marcia Barinaga is, "continuing the ancient shepherding and cheese making traditions of my Basque family and ancestors in Euskadi, the Basque region of Spain," she says.

Barinaga makes cheese seasonally, with the natural milk cycle of her sheep. Animals produce milk to feed their young, not to make cheese. To meet volume demands, many cheese makers will raise animals indoors or use other tricks to stimulate year-round milk production. Baringa's herd grazes outdoors all year. The ewes have their lambs in March, and have milk enough to spare for cheese from April through October thereafter.

Barinaga uses raw milk for her cheese which means, by U.S. law, it must be aged. Hence cheese you can buy today likely came from milk from this summer and early fall.

click to enlarge cheese_grapes.jpg

Barinaga makes one cheese in two sizes; the larger Baserri, "which means 'farmhouse' in Basque," and the smaller Txiki, "which means little." Basari is a 4- to 5-pound wheel, but you can buy it by the piece at the Ferry Building Temple to exceptional cheese, Cowgirl Creamery. Txiki is a 2-pound tommette-sized cheese.

Both come from the same recipe, and are hand made in small batches to mirror the cheeses one can buy from farmhouses speckled across the Basque countryside.

The rind has a color and texture of light toast crust with the cheese itself a soft, pale, yellow-white color. It has a dense, modestly rubbery, body, like an aged mozzarella

The taste is pleasant, light, nutty, and mild throughout. Like an ultra-mild farmstead cheddar without the sharpness, but without losing the complexity. There's a hint of fruitiness, and a note of the tropics.

This cheese wears its terroir on its rind. One clearly senses the seasonality of the milk, almost with a taste of the field, and perhaps a diet of cover.

Eat the cheese with its rind. It adds a nice offset to the mild flavors, and is modestly more intense in its nuttiness. It also delivers a pleasant textural contrast.

In addition to Cowgirl Creamery, Barinaga Cheese can be purchased on their farm, through their site and at a variety of locations.


Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , ,

About The Author

Ben Narasin


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"