Today’s Cheese is Bleu de Chèvre

This is a cheese so authentic that it doesn’t have a fancy name.  Just Bleu de Chèvre, or Blue Goat’s Cheese for a direct translation.  It is made in Boissy-Saint-Léger, a commune to the south east of Paris and, to add to its rarity, it’s a fermier cheese made from the milk from the goats on a single farm.

Now what’s interesting for me is that you don’t get many blue goat’s milk cheeses and there certainly aren’t any famous ones.  There are plenty of well known blue sheep’s milk cheeses, including the mighty Roquefort and loads of famous blue cow’s milk cheeses such as Dorset Blue Vinney, Stilton and Gorgonzola but there are no celebrated goats milk blues.  Off the top of my head I know of Harbourne in the UK, and at a push you might say the Picon from Spain qualifies but that’s a mix so I have disqualified it under my somewhat arbitrary legal system. And that’s pretty much it.

I have to be honest and say that I have no explanation for this.  Maybe the flavours that everyone likes from a goat’s cheese is not in tune with what the bacteria add.  Next time I find Baptiste, the one person who will know, I will ask.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make a blue with goat’s milk.  This one is a fine example of a good one and I’m sure that there are others.

So on to the cheese.  The rind is grey and covered with ash and quite edible [i.e. you really should eat it] and the paste is just off-white, soft, supple and uniform with pockets of blue mould well distributed throughout.  Since the cheese is relatively young it doesn’t have a strong aroma and also lacks the sharp freshness that you might expect from a goat’s cheese.  It does have a slight hint of lemony sharpness when you first bite it but this is soon overcome by the satisfying creaminess and the saltiness of the cheese and there’s a hint of pepper and grassy herbs at the end too.

It’s a canny enough cheese and I would gladly eat it again but it lacks a real character and a distinctive taste to be really memorable.  For wine, I’d go for a nice, crisp white such as a sauvignon blanc, quite possibly from the Loire valley just for a hint of locality to the event.

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Today’s Goat Cheese is Selles Sur Cher

This is the week of eating goat cheese.  The other day it was Taupinette and today it’s the turn of Selles Sur Cher.

This is a classic AOC cheese from the region of, unsurprisingly, Selles Sur Cher in the Loir et Cher region.  The commune is a couple of hundred kilometres south west of Paris.

This maybe a good time to explain AOC and these other things.

Us French [OK, I’m not really French but I live here so that’s pretty much as good as] love rules and we love it when the state does lots and controls things.  Even down to making up new words.  

AOC stands for Appellation d’origine contrôlée and it’s a French system to control the production and branding of certain traditional foods which are strongly linked to geographical areas.  The idea goes back to Royal decrees governing the production of Roquefort [a truly great cheese for another day] in the 15th century.  There are all sorts of things that are under this system such as various wines, herbs from Provence, ciders, honeys, butter, charcuterie etc.  

There are no beers since the French appear to be incapable of producing decent beer.

There are also a number of similar schemes maintained by the EU and, in an order showing the declining difficulty of achieving each, there are Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG).  Selles Sur Cher has applied for the PDO label.

So, as you’ve guessed, it’s made with goat cheese and preferably unpasteurised milk.  The cheese is about 10 or 15 centimetres across [about five inches] and is a disc shape with slightly sloping sides, perhaps like a cone with the top chopped off.  Its rind is wrinkled and dark grey with a light and soft bloom.  The grey comes from from the application of ash.  Again, the rind is perfectly edible.  If you cut it off you’re wasting your own money and discarding the work and labour of the cheesemakers and affineurs.  On your head be it.

The cheese tends to be matured for about ten days to three weeks.  When you cut it open you can immediately see one of the reasons for using ash.  The contrast between the grey rind and the brilliant white of the paste is quite beautiful.  The paste is rich, creamy and consistent and the cheese has a very clean, bright fresh taste.  The taste has no great length and is almost verging on the bland.  It really is one of the most delicate cheeses around and if you’re going to put this on the cheese board make sure it’s eaten first.  I find it a good lunchtime cheese with some lightly salted tomatoes and some bread.  And it’s very moreish.  Of course you want some wine with it.  I’d go for a dry white or a light red such as a Chinon or a Bourgueil.

Can I tell the difference between this and the Taupinette from the other day?  Yes, when I eat them together and I can see which one is which.  The Taupinette has slightly more flavour.  Would I remember for next time or tell them apart in a blind taste test?  Quite probably not.   I obviously have a lot of homework to do.