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G - GOAT’S CHEESE

G - GOAT’S CHEESE

Cheese is as much as part of the national consciousness in France as bread and wine. In fact, between the three, there is the basis of many a lunch...

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Here in Poitou-Charentes, where the goat is king, it’s not surprising that goat’s cheese (fromage du chèvre) occupies a special place in the heart of many of the region’s residents. 

Legend has it that the back in the eighth century AD, the Moors were beaten in battle and hot-footed it to the south, leaving their goats behind. But however they got here, today goats are an important livestock across the region, especially in the Deux-Sèvres where many small local producers continue to make specialist cheeses using methods handed down through the generations.

With such a variety available at markets and in shops throughout the Poitou-Charentes, just how do you know which one to try? Here’s our guide to the ones you are likely to come across, along with our suggestion for an accompaniment where it differs from the traditional pairing with a crisp white wine or rosé...

 

 

BÛCHE DU POITOU

A bûche may be a familiar word to you since a bûche is a log and as you might expect, the Bûche du Poitou is log-shaped. It has a pale, soft, creamy inside beneath a soft, ivory-grey ridged crust and has a mild, slightly acidic flavour. Although originally a speciality of Poitou-Charentes, the bûche de chèvre is now made all across France, which is why it is important to find a bûche du Poitou if you want to be sure your cheese is typical in the area.

HOW TO EAT IT: sliced thinly and placed on a thin-crust pizza instead of mozzarella, fresh with bread or as part of a goat’s salad.

 

 

BONDE DE GÂTINE

A cylindrical or round cheese with a thin wrinkly rind, flecked with white or grey mould. It’s made by goat producers affiliated to the GAEC agricultural organisation based in Fragnée, in the Parthenay area. Eaten young, after six or so weeks, it has a mild flavour that becomes sharper and saltier as it ages.

HOW TO EAT IT: fresh with bread; grilled on a baguette to eat alone or as part of a goat’s cheese salad.

ACCOMPANY WITH: a crisp white wine or rosé or a Côte du Rhône.

 

 

BOUGON

Named after the commune in which it was first made, this flat round cheese has a soft centre and rind flecked with mould. The large size of the wheel is similar to that of camembert, earning it the nickname, ‘the camembert of goat’s cheese’. It has a nutty flavour.

HOW TO EAT IT: fresh with bread. Or cut off the rind and grill or, like camembert, bake it whole in an oven, heated to 220°C, for 10-15 minutes and eat the melted inside with bread.

ACCOMPANY WITH: a sparkling wine, Chardonnay or Beaujolais or Côte du Rhône.

 

 

CAPRI LÉZÉEN

A round creamy cheese with a soft, sticky rind that has traces of blue mould. It is sold wrapped in a chestnut leaf and placed in a wooden box, and has a slightly nutty taste.

HOW TO EAT IT: fresh with bread; grilled on a baguette to eat alone or as part of a goat’s cheese salad.

 

 

CENDRÉ DE NIORT

Made in the area close to the marshy area of the Marais Poitevin, its name refers to the way it is made – it is matured in a box of ash which helps form its mouldy rind. With a brilliant white inside, it has a soft texture and a mild, rustic flavour.

HOW TO EAT IT: fresh with bread; grilled on a baguette to eat alone or as part of a goat’s cheese salad.

 

 

CHABICHOU DU POITOU

The region’s most well known cheese, the focus of its very own biannual festival, this cheese was awarded an AOC label in 1990. You will recognise this by its cylindrical shape which is thinner at one end than the other. Its centre is delicate and light; its crust is thicker and yellow, almost the colour of clotted cream. The quality of the cheese depends on the calcium-rich soils of the region, specifically that around Deux-Sèvres, Vienne and the north of the Charente department.

HOW TO EAT IT: As an apéritif or after a meal. You want to eat this cheese on its own so that you can savour its delicate taste. The cheese beneath the crust should be moist and white.

 

CLOCHETTE

This bell-shaped cheese is a relatively recent one. With a wrinkled rind, its strong flavour has been described as being like dried hay and goats!

HOW TO EAT IT: fresh with bread; grilled on a baguette to eat alone or as part of a goat’s cheese salad.

ACCOMPANY WITH: a red wine (Côte d’Auvergne rouge or Corbières rouge)

 

 

MOTHAIS-SUR-FEUILLE

This cheese has a very long pedigree, its origins dating back to when the Arabs were in France. While most goat’s cheese is ripened in dry conditions, this soft round variety is placed on a chestnut leaf and ripened at high humidity to keep it moist. It is always sold and served with the leaf, and has a slightly mouldy aroma and a gentle aftertaste.

HOW TO EAT IT: fresh with bread; grilled on a baguette to eat alone or as part of a goat’s cheese salad.

 

 

TAUPINETTE CHARENTAISE

This dome-shaped cheese has a crinkly white/grey rind and is known for its mild, nutty flavour that grows stronger as the cheese ages.

HOW TO EAT IT: fresh with bread; grilled on a baguette to eat alone or as part of a goat’s cheese salad.

 

 

TOMME DE CHÈVRE DE L’ILE DE RÉ

Made by one of the few goat’s cheese producers left on the Ile-de-Ré, the rind of this cheese is washed twice a week with a mix of brine and local white wine. This gives it its distinctive rich taste that has the tang of the ocean about it.

HOW TO EAT IT: fresh with bread. It’s also great melted into a sauce.

ACCOMPANY WITH: a chablis, cider or beer.

 

 

TROIS CORNES DE VENDÉE

This triangular-shaped cheese is actually from the area around the Marais Poitevin. The name comes from the shape of the famous goat’s horn that belonged to Monsieur Seguin, a character created by French writer Alphonse Daudet. A strong cheese with a bittersweet flavour.

HOW TO EAT IT: it is traditionally eaten fresh with a slice of fresh green garlic. It’s just as nice with bread, or grilled on a baguette to eat alone or as part of a goat’s cheese salad.

 

JONCHÉE

Tracing its origins back to the Middle Ages, Jonchée is a fromage frais originally made with goat or sheep’s milk although nowadays it is more usually made with cow’s milk. Its roots lie in ensuring curdled milk could be used in the times before refrigeration. It was traditionally wrapped with rushes from the Marais Poitevin (called jonce and hence the name of the cheese) and flavoured with bay or almond oil, which gives it a slightly bitter taste. The outside of the cheese is firm, but the inside is soft and melt-in-the-mouth

HOW TO EAT IT:with something sweet such as jam or sugar.

ACCOMPANY WITH: a sweet wine

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MEET THE PRODUCERS

If you want to get close to a goat and see how the cheese is made, then see www.routeduchabichou.fr. Here you will find the details of those producers open to the public. Many take large groups only, but here is a selection who accept smaller groups or individuals…

 

FERME DE LA PIERRE FOLLE: farm of 65 rare Poitevine goats in the Vienne. Visit and tastings are Sundays at 3pm or groups (minimum 6) with reservation. Buy cheese at the farm shop daily 10am – 7pm. Tel 05 49 48 46 11 and ask for Lydia and Christian Blanchet. Address: La Pierre Folle, 86320 Sillars; www.fermedelapierrefolle.com

 

LA CHEVRE RIT: farm of 45 Alpine goats in the Charente-Maritime. Visits are Wednesdays and Saturdays between 9am-12.00pm and 3pm-7pm and on Thursdays and Fridays between 9am-12.00pm. You may be able to help with the milking on Saturdays and Wednesdays from 4.30pm. The visits are free. Buy cheese at the farm shop (10 per cent discount if you arrive on bicycle or by foot!). Tel 06 60 38 81 88 and ask for Cédric Auge. Address: 2 chemin de Bel Air, 17139, Dompierre-sur-Mer; www.lachevrerit.fr

 

GAEC SABOUREAU: family-run farm of 250 Saanen goats (as well as cattle) in the Deux-Sèvres. Guided visits and tastings are most days by appointment.Adults: €3, children under 12 free. Tastings are €6 extra. Buy cheese at the farm shop. Tel 05 49 06 07 83 and ask for Sylvie, Patrice or Jean-Claude Saboureau. Address: La Naide, 79400 Exireuil

 

LA FERME DU MARAS: farm of 155 Alpine and Saanen goats in the Vienne. Visits every evening between 5pm and 7pm and you may be able to help with milking. Buy cheese at the farm shop. Tel 05 49 46 41 79 and ask for Marie-Hélène Gauvreau. Address : Le Maras, Route Saint Savin, 86300, Chauvigny

 

GAEC DE LA ROCHE: farm in the Deux-Sèvres. Visits and milking: Tuesday and Friday between 5pm and 7pm, at other times with appointment.
Tel 06 83 16 50 33 - ask for Emma Bonnet. Address: 39, rue de Pied Blanc, 79210, St Hilaire La Palud: Le Trait, 79600, Maisontiers

 

 

fromageDO TRY THIS HOME..

A QUICK AND EASY SALAD FOR A SUMMER’S DAY...

De-seed a ripe Charentais melon, cut into eight wedges and remove the skin.

Whisk together 1 tbsp of red pineau vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and 2 tbsp of olive oil and toss some fresh salad leaves in the dressing.

Arrange the leaves on 4 plates with two melon wedges on each and top with wedges of Chabichou du Poitou.

Drizzle over remaining dressing and serve.

 

 

EATING CHEESE

* It is best to eat your cheese as soon as you can after buying as a long spell in the fridge does not improve the flavour.

* Remove the cheese about one hour before serving so it returns to room temperature.

* When cutting your cheese, always make sure your slice contains some rind as the cheese closest to the rind has a more intense flavour.

* If you are dining at the restaurant or at the home of a French person, the cheese course will be served after the main course and before the dessert. It is often accompanied by a salad.