This little crottin resembles some of the classic goat’s milk cheeses of the Loire Valley, but actually hails from Kempense Geitenkaas, a creamery in Lichtaart, Belgium, north of Antwerp in the region of Flanders. Paul D’Haene and Veerle Minsaer have been making cheese since 1979, focusing on goat, in country that is known almost exclusively for its cow’s milk cheeses (the trappist style cheeses being the best known, such as the Le Charmoix, recently reviewed). Paul even says that “the goat is the cow of the poor farmer”, but there’s nothing impoverished about the cheeses that he’s making with their milk.
The aged 5oz crottin has a textured, stony amber exterior, opening to reveal a chalky white interior, the paste creamy and fudgy with a bit more proteolysis at the rind. The aroma is yeasty and fruity; the flavor is milky and bright with citrus notes and a distinct sour, tangy, overtone.
Purchased at Formaggio Essex.
Last Saturday, I found myself on an early morning train, traveling up to Bedford Hills, NY, to visit Arattom, the new farmstead cheesemaking operation helmed by Jon Bonanno. The property on which Jon has established his new venture is actually Rainbeau Ridge, the farm of Lisa Schwartz, maker of the excellent Meridian cheese, a fresh goat’s milk cheese that was highly esteemed by cheesemongers and restaurants alike (you can see it here on a cheeseplate from Casellula), and took a 1st Place Ribbon at the American Cheese Society Competition in 2010. Martha Stewart, a Bedford Hills neighbor, even toured the farm and featured it on her blog in 2011, and Schwarz wrote a book about her experiences, “Over The Rainbeau:Living the dream of sustainable farming”. The farm is compact and efficient, the goats, llamas, chickens, turkeys and wandering guinea hens all tucked into the idyllic landscape surrounding the farmhouse, with the cheese plant a small structure, immaculate and well-maintained, with vat pasteurizers, draining tables, chilling tanks, workstations and sinks all tucked in like Tetris pieces into their proper place.
Lisa has recently gone on sabbatical from Rainbeau Ridge, and Jon, who has worked at Rainbeau Ridge with Lisa for a couple years — not to mention being a former monger at Saxelby’s and putting in time at Consider Bardwell, Cavaniola’s and other cheese-related ventures — stepped in to keep the goats milking and the cheese flowing while she’s gone. He’ll be working under his own label, Arattom, and will be producing several cheeses, including the Cinder, a fresh, ash-coated pasteurized goat’s milk wheel with a center ash line that is similar to the Meridian; an uncoated wheel called Clover; fresh Chevre (which he is currently supplying to Blue Hill at Stone Barn) and a goat’s milk Feta. Arattom also has some other cheeses in the works, including a washed rind tomme and other cheeses in development.
While there I got the chance to make cheese with Jon, taking part in the makes for the Cinder and Clover, as well as one of the experimental Tomme recipes which Arattom is currently working on. Also pitching in was Yoav Perry, fellow urban cheesemaker, hardcore culture nerd and the man behind ArtisanGeek.com, a new cheesemaking supply company based in NYC (check out his site for cultures, moulds and much more. You can hear Yoav on a recent episode of Cutting The Curd with Sascha Davies and Diane Stemple).
For the Cinder and Clover, The goats milk is pasteurized, starter cultures and a small amount of microbial rennet added and then the milk allowed to culture for as many as 24 hours to develop the desired depth and complexity of flavor. From there it gets carefully ladeled into the molds in 6 passes; after the 3rd pass, if the fabrication is for Cinder, a layer of ash is sprinkled on the curds, and the following three layers than carefully laid down on top of it. When it has drained sufficiently, the wheels are unmolded, and the outer layer of ash and salt applied, and the wheels go into cheese coolers to age. Jon makes maximal use of the limited space, operating like a well-oiled machine to keep the wheels moving from vat to moulds to draining tables to coolers, each step making room for the following step.
The finished product, in the Cinder, is a bright, fresh, milky cheese, with a soft, fudgy paste and citric and grassy notes, balanced nicely by the ashy coat.
The day started with Cinder and Clover, but moved on to taste-testing the newest batch of Feta (which was delicious, although Jon would like to finesse the recipe to produce a softer, creamier feta rather than a firm version), and the fabrication of a test batch of a pasteurized goat’s milk tomme. We’ll know in a few weeks how that one came out!
French cheese blog SoCheese.fr has a post about Paul Georgelet, cheesemaker in the Charente-Poitou region. The region is best known for Chabichou du Poitou, but his specialty is the Mothais-Sur-Feuille (the oozing wheel photo is from my review of the Mothais), which, if Paul Georgelet has his way, will soon have AOC recognition:
Paul Georgelet has been fighting for several years for the official recognition of Mothais-sur-Feuille, a goat’s cheese served on a chestnut leaf. ‘This custom comes from an ancient tradition in the Deux-Sévres region. My mother and her friends used to put their cheeses on leaves,’ tells the cheesemonger.
It is largely thanks to Paul Georgelet, here in the production room, that Mothais-sur-Feuille is currently in the process of trying to gain AOC recognition. At the age of 19, in 1975, this articulate enthusiast created his production site and brought out his first creation a year later, Saint-Paul, a little goat’s cheese disc about the size of a Pélardon. ‘At the time, in the region, nearly everyone who produced milk, did so to sell it. Transforming it (into cheese) was secondary. My parents, farmers and breeders, sold their milk to the Chef Boutonne co-operative.’ His father wanted him to become a civil servant, ‘it’s less difficult than being a farmer’. He never succeeded at detaching himself from the earth. And therefore, set out at giving the Mothais-sur-Feuille a new lease of life, at the start of the 80s, with the support of big name in cheese at the time, Pierre Androuët, who would open up doors of opportunity in the Parisian market. It was the beginning of a long story.
check out the full post here.
(Some Photos ©2013 SoCheese.fr)
I’m not normally a huge fan of cheeses crusted with “stuff”, but there are a few exceptions — Brin d’Amour, Barely Buzzed, to name a few — and to the list I’ll add the Tome de Bordeaux, from famed french affineurs Jean d’Alos (originally founded by Jean and Pascale d’Alos but now run by Clarence Grosdidier), also responsible for the recently reviewed Tome d’Aquitaine. Also known as “Herbilette”, this cheese is inspired by Poustagnac, a sheep’s milk cheese seasoned with piment d’Espelette, but where the Poustagnac cheese is a sheep’s milk cheese, the Bordeaux is goat’s milk.
As with the Tome d’Aquitaine, the raw goat’s milk Tome de Bordeaux begins its life at the dairy cooperative Union Laitiere de la Venise Verte, before being shipped to Jean d’Alos, where the wheels are aged and washed with Muscadet for two months. At the end of this aging period, the wheels are moistened and coated with the distinctive — and lovingly arranged — crust of herbs and spices. The mix includes rosemary, savory, fennel seed, oregano, thyme, paprika, cayenne, peppercorns and juniper berries, creating an astonishing potpourri on top of the wheel (I’m curious as to how they ship the wheels in order to keep the crust intact). My pictures, limited as they are to a thin wedge, don’t do the Tome justice; check out the photos from the Culture piece linked at the end for the full effect.
The paste, beneath the herby crust, is bone white, soft and creamy, with scattered eyes. The texture is delicate and smooth with a beautiful mouthfeel. The flavor is mild, with a balanced saltiness and subtle gamey and nutty notes. The herbs and spices dominate the flavor of course, but not overwhelmingly, infusing each bite with a warm herby and peppery flavor, with the rosemary coming to the front.
If you’re hesitant to dip into a cheese with such an ostentatious — even rococo — appearance, set aside your reservations and try the Tome de Bordeaux, it’s well worth it.
Culture Magazine went to France to profile the farmers, cheesemakers and affineurs behind the Tome de Bordeaux; you can also see some great photos of the wheels in their full glory.
Purchased at The Cheese Traveler.
Over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution site, John Kessler looks into the renaissance in Southern cheesemaking, including established names like Sweetgrass Dairy and rising stars like Sequatchie Cove (makers of the ACS Conference sensation-cheese Dancing Fern, one of my American Cheese Month picks):
Sequatchie Cove Creamery is one of dozens of quality small farmstead creameries that have opened in the Southeast in recent years. Producers throughout the region — from the Appalachian Mountains to the coastal plain — are making quality small-batch cheeses from cows, goats and sheep raised on their own farms. Just a few years ago, the only cheese the South was known for was of the pimento variety, as Southern cheese production virtually ceased during the industrialization of the 1950s and 1960s. But all that has changed, and the region has a newfound cachet.
Amanda Parker of Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York says that her colleagues were blown away by some of the cheeses they tried at the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival in Nashville in early October. “There seems to be a lot more interest in the South, a lot more people being exposed to great cheeses.”
“The South is rising again in farmstead dairy,” said MaryAnne Drake, a professor of food science at North Carolina State University who’s a consultant for the many small dairies that have turned to cheese making in recent years.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a few pioneers such as Sweet Grass Dairy and Fromagerie Belle Chèvre of Elkmont, Ala., began making small-batch cheeses. They would win the occasional medal at a cheese competition but were treated as curios — good cheese from the Deep South.
read the full post here.
(Photos ©2012 AJC.com)
This striking ring of cheese is the Couronne de Touraine, also known as Couronne Lochoise, from France’s Loire Valley. Made by the Fromagerie Cloche d’Or in the town of Pont-de-Ruan, it is affinaged and imported by the award-winning French affineur-fromager Rodolphe Le Meunier, located in La Croix En Touraine, and has only recently become available here.
The name, “Couronne”, translates as “crown”, reflecting its distinctive shape, and in this case it is the Crown of Touraine, the region from which Le Meunier hails. I’m not sure whether there is in fact a difference between the Touraine and Lochoise; I assume not, as, on his website, www.fromages-en-jazz.com, Le Meunier lists it as “Couronne Lochoise artisanal Touraine”.
This was one of the cheeses I enjoyed during my last trip to the Cloche A Fromage in Strasbourg, France, and one that I’d be seeking out, to no avail, in the US. At the most recent Cheesemonger Invitational however, Rodolphe Le Meunier had a booth set up, loaded down with these distinctive crowns of cheese (as well as many other delectable cheeses), and told us that they were going to be available on this side of the pond soon. I’d almost forgotten about them until a few days ago, when I stepped into Park Slope’s Blue Apron grocery and saw the Couronne, as well as other of the Le Meunier cheeses, in the cheese counter.
In both flavor and appearance, the Couronne, a soft-ripened, pasteurized goat’s milk bloomy rind, is similar to one of the Loire Valley’s great cheeses, Selles-Sur-Cher (previously reviewed back in March). The ash-coated rind, stony gray with a greenish hue, has a bit of the distinctive “brainy” wrinkles of a Geotrichum Candidum rind, and is impressively soft and delicate, with an aroma that is earthy, musty and herbaceous. Cutting into the doughnut, the paste is creamy, smooth and oozing at the creamline, velvety throughout, with a tangy, minerally, mild flavor, salty with notes of fresh hay.
If you want to learn more about Rodolphe Le Meunier, he features prominently in the documentary La Guerre des Fromages Qui Puent (If you want to jump ahead to his segment, it starts around 11:20). Dorie Greenspan also has a profile of Rodolphe on her blog.
Purchased at Blue Apron.
Update: A few days after this post, the San Francisco Chronicles excellent cheese expert, Janet Fletcher, reviewed the Couronne de Touraine as well!
Cheese Underground delivers a sobering report on the perilous position in which Wisconsin’s goat farmers find themselves, as the unforgiving Drought of 2012 drags on:
The severe drought affecting southern Wisconsin may have a severe impact on the number of dairy goat farms left in the state by year’s end.
With a sharp increase in feed costs (due to lack of forages), and a sharp decrease in milk production (due to heat stress), dairy goat farmers are predicting a mass exodus unless the pay prices that cheese plants pay for goat’s milk are significantly increased.
“I am doing what I can, and writing to the people who buy the milk to try and deliver the message that we can’t keep going when the price we get is less than what we can make it for,” one goat producer messaged. “We all need to keep spreading the word so we can save our farms.”
A cheese processor, Montchevre in Belmont, Wis., did just that last week, temporarily bumping up the price paid for 100 pounds of goat’s milk to $33.50, up $1.50. In a statement made July 31, company president Arnaud Solandt said: “We trust this pricing adjustment will provide some sensitive relief. We also hope it will either influence other goat cheese manufacturers to do the same, or incite goat milk producers to come to Montchevre.”
[…]Kenny Burma, who started goat farming in 1996, retired, and then came back with a new facility, is now running a 600-goat farm in Green County. On August 3, he told the Wisconsin State Journal that a square bale of hay that cost him $45 six months ago now costs $100. Feed pellets that cost $229 a ton a year ago now cost $436.
“Is the increase from Montchevre enough? Maybe not, especially for those farmers who are recent to the business and have loans to pay,” he told veteran reporter George Hesselberg. “If you are living milk check to milk check now, you will not survive this winter.”
With so many federal subsidies going to large agricultural operations, perhaps it’s time to redirect some of that funding towards keeping smaller farms above water during difficult times. And of course, if you live in Wisconsin (or anywhere affected by the drought), support your local farmers with your shopping dollars!
Read the full report here.
(Photo ©2012 Cheese Underground)
From Haystack Mountain in Colorado comes Red Cloud. The presence of “Red” in the name of a cheese is usually a reliable indicator that you’re dealing with a washed rind cheese (eg Hudson Red, Anton’s Red Love, etc), due to the distinctive reddish color given to the cheese by the Brevibacterium Linens, the bacterial culture that is added to the cheese and encouraged through repeated washings with brines, beers, spirits or other liquids depending on the recipe.
Washed rinds are the cheeses that put the stink in “stinky cheese”, and Red Cloud is no slouch in this department. Made from raw goat’s milk, it packs a double punch, the B.Linens funk combining with a goaty kick to make for an assertive cheese. The red rind is sticky to the touch and slightly gritty, opening up to reveal a firm, smooth, ivory paste with a creamy texture and nice mouthfeel. The flavor of the paste itself is meaty, nutty and complex, while the rind packs the stinky punch, bringing barnyard, wet grass and musty notes to the table, all of which blends beautiful and lingers on the palette for a while. All in all a beautiful wheel, although for some it might be classified as a “challenging” cheese.
This wheel was definitely on the more pungent side; if you were to buy a younger one it would be milder and less gooey on the outside. Luckily, I like ‘em stinky, so it was a win to find it in this state, which is close to washed rind perfection.
Purchased at Olde Hudson in Hudson, NY.
While researching this cheese, I also discovered an interesting backstory to Haystack’s milk supply:
The men wearing green uniforms and tall rubber boots spread out across the compound, herding goats into pens, pouring grain into feeding troughs and serving as nursemaids to those giving birth.
Many of these guys, all prisoners at the Skyline Correctional Center in Cañon City, had never touched a goat or heard one bleat before becoming involved with Colorado Correctional Industries, a division of the state Department of Corrections. It’s likely, too, that few of the prisoners had ever tasted goat cheese.
But that’s what happens to nearly every drop of milk the prisoners draw from the animals, most of which goes to Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy in Longmont. Cheesemakers there transform thousands of gallons of milk from the Cañon City goats into chevre logs, cubes of feta, pungent rounds of raw milk cheese and more.
At the East Canon Correctional Complex in Canon City inmates from the Skyline facility tend to the dairy goats on Wednesday, June 17, 2009. The inmates milk the goats twice a day.
And then a shopper at a Costco in Littleton, or a cheese connoisseur at a gourmet boutique in Philadelphia, or a diner at a fancy restaurant in San Diego will buy the cheese. The diner will chew the slice of Red Cloud and marvel over its evocative flavor.
How does milk from a prison complex in remote Colorado end up on the fork of a debutante? It begins in the pen.
Chevre des Cremiers, a bloomy-rind goat’s milk cheese, double- or triple-creme (I’m not sure which but there’s definitely some extra creme goin’ on here!). Hailing from Midi-Pyrenees, France, the wheel is plump and velvety with the pillowy amber-snowy rind collapsing around the oozing paste.
A mild, milky, buttery cheese, smooth and creamy with a nice saltiness, with hints of hay, mushrooms and mustiness and just the slightest hint of goat bite and a slightly sour finish.
Purchased at Blue Apron.
Goat Cheese Frosting on your cupcake, anyone? Belle Chevre posts 30-second “Chevre Shorts” recipes on YouTube, here’s the latest.