I was speaking to the man from the cheese shop and we were talking about goat cheese. There are an awful lot of goat cheeses here and if you go to any of the main goat areas then you’ll find plenty of farmers with their own cheeses for sale. I suggested that quite a few of these cheeses are a bit, well, samey. They’re not bad or anything, they’re just six of one. I’m not saying that they are all like that. There are some really great goat cheeses. It’s just that many of them are alike. He agreed [and I was relieved, since as soon as I said it I thought “he’s going to take me to pieces for this”. French cheese folk are renowned for their aggression over idiot generalisations] but only to an extent. He did concede that this was mainly because he was a specialist in goat cheese and he can spot the differences.
So I thought that, since I have some time on my hands this week, I would explore the world of goat cheese. I know. I really punish myself.
So, first up is Taupinette, which means little molehill. Which, given its shape, is a fine name. It’s also a smaller version of a cheese from the same area called La Taupinière, which is a normal sized molehill.
As a slight mole aside, I learned today that in 1614, a Swiss doctor named Felix Platter [or Plater] tells of a patient whose backside was invaded by a small mole, which did “much damage” during its brief stay.
Anyway, Taupinette is made in the Charente region of France, to the west of the country by the Fromagerie Jousseaume. It also won gold in the 2012 World Cheese Awards in the romantically titled “5002 Soft goats’ milk cheese plain – mould- ripened” category. And who could fail to be moved by that?
So the cheese. It’s moulded in a ladle, which gives it the classic domed shape and it’s matured for a couple of weeks. The rind is a slightly yellowed with a healthy speckling of green-grey mould and ash.
Ash. Yes, Ash. But why? Well, it’s rather traditional, it looks nice when it offers a nice contrast to the very pale cheese, it can help neutralise any acidity on the cheese’s surface which allows the mould to form and thus the rind to protect the cheese as it matures and it can help the cheese dry. You can eat it without worrying and it adds nothing to the taste, the mouthfeel or the aroma of the cheese.
The paste is slightly dry and only slightly crumbly and is a pale buttery yellow. It has the classic creamy blandness of a young cheese but offers a lemony tang and a hint of hazelnut. The taste does not linger long but it is light and almost refreshing. It could be easily served with red soft fruits or just a glass of Pineau. Serve it as an early cheese on the cheeseboard and you can’t go far wrong.