Note from Shannon: Please welcome Janet, who is bringing us along with her during her real, cultured food tour of France this summer.
Since I was a little girl in pigtails, cheese has long tantalized my taste buds. These days, each time I pass by a fancy cheese bar, I start sweating and my mouth starts watering. A bit far fetched, but more often than not, I walk out spending more money than I should on cheeses from all over the world. I suppose it could be worse if I had a shoe fetish. Oh no, I have one of those too! Please forgive my digression—shoes can do that to me.
This summer my family planned a trip to Provençe and this meant I would be in cheese heaven. Cheese is big business in France,and Chevre is the top export. The word Chevre in literal translation is ‘goat’ and this country exported upwards of 110,000 tons in 2011. That is nothing to bleat at.
Here in America, we are accustomed to the white, creamy young version marketed in the grocery stores. It is yummy, tis true, but it is the tip of the iceberg when you find out how different one goat cheese can be from another. Come on along and learn a bit about the variety available, and try your hand at making some of your own!
Like their wine, French goat cheese is regional. Most of the milk is produced out of the Loire Valley in the southern portion of France. It can be made young or aged, sharp or mild, moist or dry. It can be sold plain or dressed up with fresh or dried herbs or charcoal ash which is used to mellow the acidity which results in a more delectable cheese. The portion sizes are usually smaller because if batches were large and dense, the cheese would dry and age more slowly and the flavor would be drastically different.
Now that you have a few goat cheese facts, try your hand at making your own Chevre. I have included a salad recipe and Stuffed Tomato Provençal that are easy and put together and make a great summer meal alongside a fresh baguette. In addition, to increase your knowledge about fromage (cheese) and possibly gain a new kitchen hobby, check out these great cheese books.