Basque Country: 5 specialties to slip into your suitcase

The Basque Country – known as Le Pays Basque in French – is full of tain charm that can’t be found anywhere else. Situated in the extreme south-west of France and on the border with Spain, this region offers amazing views of the sea and the beautiful Pyrénées mountains. Get to know the locals, who are proud of their language and culture; watch a traditional pelota ball match; and enjoy grilled calamari and Basque cakes on a sun-drenched terrace.

 
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Bayonne Ham is made in the Basque area of France.

It is sweet tasting, air-dried, boneless ham that doesn’t need cooking. You use it the same way as prosciutto, though it is sliced a bit more thickly.

Only one breed of pig is used, a Basque breed called “Pie Noir” that is mottled black and white like a Jersey cow. It’s allowed to forage and graze on acorns, chestnuts, corn and various roots. The pig is slaughtered during the winter, aged 12 to 15 months, and weighing between 120 to 160 kg.

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The simplest things are often the best, aren't they? The Basque cake confirms it: a pastry, pastry cream ... and we are immediately on cloud nine! If those with cream are the most traditional, there are also some filled with black cherry jam which, in passing, is another flagship product of the Basque Country. To know everything about this little cake, go to Sare: this adorable village in the hinterland has dedicated a museum to it.

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It's enough to walk a little in the countryside to realize how sheeps are numerous. It's to them that we owe most of the Basque cheeses! Among them is the famous Ossau-Iraty, an uncooked pressed cheese, matured for at least 80 days. Protected by the AOP certification label, it is created in the aim to protect a distinct cultural and gastronomic heritage, it is manufactured in the respect of a very precise set of specifications. To know if it is indeed an Ossau-Iraty cheese, there is nothing more simple: its crust is marked with a sheep's head.

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Bright red, the Espelette pepper, or "Ezpeletako biperra" in Basque, is a true symbol of the Basque Country. It is also protected by an AOC certification label, making it the only labeled spice in France! In the sector of Espelette, we see these peppers in the fields, while walking. They can be bought in rope (fresh or dry) or reduced to powder: thus, they gladly replace pepper to raise a dish!

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Irouléguy is one of the great wine protected designation of origin of the Basque Country. The Irouléguy vineyard - one of the smallest in France - gives birth to red, white and even rosé wines. You can see the vineyards in the beautiful landscapes of Basse-Navarre, where you can also find the village of Irouléguy, to which it owes its name.

This region of South-Western France has everything it takes to get your heart racing.

There's nothing like it!

Ongi etorri (welcome in Euskara, the Basque Country dialect)!

Francois Morabito