Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chevre I update

I posted this as a comment to the Chevre I piece, but I figured most people wouldn't see it. So, if you're interested in how the marinated Picodon turned out, read on...

"By the way, Dave and I tried the picodon that had been sitting in olive oil and herbs since November. It was delicious! It looked a little funky because the olive oil had solidified a bit on the top of the jar, but it didn't change the flavor.

We ate little slices of the cheese on baguette (it was even better when toasted) as we sipped some red wine. The olive oil and herbs added so much wonderful flavor to the cheese. I suggest that everyone try this at home with some fresh chevre (even a log of it would work), olive oil, and Herbes de Provence.

When Aida, William, and Charlotte visit us this month, we'll have to share it with them. I just hope we have enough self control now that we know how amazing it is.

I am completely indebted to Joelle Thierry for this recipe and the big jar of wonderful cheese!"

We have one more marinated Picodon left. Should we eat it or share it with William and Charlotte, who are coming to visit us next weekend? Dilemmas...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chevre V: Sainte-Maure de Touraine

"The curdled milk is delicately put in the cylindrical mould with a ladle. Extreme caution should be taken to prevent the curds from being broken." (I never knew how careful a cheese maker must be.) -911 Chef Eric

Oh, what a name! I had trouble remembering it between the refrigerator and my office (mattress on bedroom floor). Sainte-Maure de Touraine comes from Touraine in the Loire/central area of France. There are many buches de chevre (goat cheese logs) out there, but this one is different. As the photo shows, something runs through the middle of this cheese. It has two purposes: to keep the cheese in its log form and to allow air into the middle of the cheese so that it matures more uniformly. The straw is made of rye and is sometimes written upon with a laser so that the consumer knows where the cheese originated. I bought this buche at the supermarket, so it didn't surprise me when I didn't find anything engraved on my rye straw. (if it's even rye!) The cheese is also coated with black ash, which is eventually covered with mold as it ages. Ours was of an average age; it hadn't begun to turn soft on the outside.

Poor Dave slaved away at this cheese because every time we ate it, he had to peel off the ashy mold. We ended up with some pretty lopsided cheese coins. We ate it on toasted baguette slices, either as an appetizer or on a salad, and both were delicious! We melted the cheese on the baguette, and we also spread cold cheese on toast; this kind of chevre is tasty however it's prepared! Sainte-Maure is pretty basic and subtle, so it would be good for someone who hasn't tried a slightly aged (2 or more weeks) chevre cheese before. Unfortunately, this buche de chevre is made from unpasteurized milk and isn't aged for the mandatory 60 days, so it isn't available in the US.

Stay tuned...I plan on explaining the difference between cheeses made from pasteurized milk and those made from unpasteurized milk. It will probably be more of a learning experience for me than for you. I will also cite my sources...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chevre IV: Banon de Provence

"Banon de Provence was already being celebrated in the era of the Gallo-Romans by Emperor Antonin Le Pieux, who claimed he would eat this cheese until the day he dies." -Jean-Louis aux Chataigniers (translated from French)

I hereby present to you another scrumpdiddlyumptious goat cheese, except this one is wrapped in mystery...

My research on this cheese has been a slightly difficult process. My first hurdle was the name of the cheese! The sticker that came on ours said "Cavet" which is not the name of the cheese, but is actually the name of the farm where this one was made. Banon de Provence, as I soon learned to be its name, comes from Provence in the southeast of France. Ours came from a little town within Provence called Dieulefit.

Banon de Provence is made from unpasteurized goats milk, then wrapped in chestnut leaves and tied with raffia. Here is where the real mystery bubbles up to the surface; some sources claim that the little cheese package is dipped into white wine, while others say brandy. One website mentioned that it's soaked in sarriette, or savory. I don't actually know which ours was soaked in, but I'm going to guess it was white wine. It didn't hint at the flavor of brandy, nor did it remind me of thyme, which is a close equivalent to savory.

This chevre was still soft on the inside, though it was slightly aged. At first, I thought it had a bitter aftertaste, but I no longer noticed this flavor as I continued to eat it with toasted baguette. It is a little more tart than the other goat cheeses we've tried, but still has a subtle chevre flavor. I really enjoyed this cheese and especially liked the novelty of it being wrapped in a chestnut leaf. How French!!

We can supposedly order this cheese online, but on one site they claim Banon de Provence is made from cow's milk. I hope this doesn't prove to be a problem when I get home- that they aren't using the right kind of milk to make the cheese! It's tough enough that the cheeses available in the USA are all made from pasteurized milk. I suspect this specific cheese might be difficult to find at home. Is it safe to trust cheese that's delivered through the mail??

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Chevre III: Rocamadour

"Monographs of the 15th century describe Rocamadour as a means of payment for the share-cropping and the taxes." -AF Touch Cuisine

This thin disk of cheese is ideal for the varied tasks of fromage de chèvre. It’s small, so we bought a few of them to test out its different uses. Naturally, it’s delicious when spread on baguette, and more-so when the baguette is toasted. What is special about this type of chèvre is how it melts perfectly on a slice of baguette when placed in the oven. We are huge fans of chèvre salads, so we were able to toast a couple pieces of Rocamadour and baguette for the top of our salad. It’s amazing! And so much better than a regular salad at a restaurant. It’s such a treat to bite in to the toasty, little circles.

The petite Rocamadour cheese has the typical, very discernible, goat cheese smell. It is also quite soft and seems as though it is melting when cut in to. It spreads easily on bread and crackers, which are especially complimentary to the cheese’s light saltiness.

This cheese gets its name from a small town called Rocamadour in the Southwestern départment (state) of Lot. We haven’t visited this town that’s built into a cliff, but it looks amazing. I believe they have a cheese festival there during Pentecost weekend. Of course, they have many different types to sample, not just Rocamadour. Maybe we will get a chance to go since it isn’t far from us.

You can enjoy this goat cheese as an appetizer or as a part of dessert, but as I mentioned, it goes remarkably well with a green salad. I have a feeling that something similar can be found in the U.S. Just be careful – it is not like the very soft rolls or pyramids of goat cheese found at the grocery store. While searching, remember that it has a soft, pale rind, which you do not need to cut off. I am really looking forward to keeping our chèvre salad tradition alive when we return home.