Showing posts with label dairy products. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dairy products. Show all posts

Monday, March 5, 2012

Say cheese

Living in France, one ends up acquiring a taste for particular varieties of cheese, and usually settling upon a group of favorites. As I've often said in this blog, it could hardly be otherwise for somebody like me who's settled not far from St Marcellin. For some time, I've narrowed down my all-time favorites to three varieties: one made with cows' milk, and the other two with sheep's milk.

In view of its round shape and orange color, mimolette might appear to be a Dutch cheese. In fact, it's a traditional product from the region of Lille in the north of France. The name "mimolette" is a corrupted derivative of the French adjective mollet that designates the soft texture, say, of a soft-boiled egg. It's a fact that the dull three-months-old cheese is of an unpleasant plastic nature. A year later, it has evolved into a hard tasty product with the texture of white milk chocolate. The orange color comes from a natural colorant, achiote, which is the same agent that is used in English cheddar. As for the hard crust of mimolette, its curious moonlike aspect is obtained—believe it or not—by the intentional inoculation of flour mites... which also enhance the flavor of the cheese. [I've no doubt said enough, there, to turn my Australian and American readers off mimolette forever! Incidentally, mimolette is imported into Australia by wholesalers named European Foods, whose elegant website can be accessed by clicking here.]

World-renowned Roquefort is an ancient blue cheese made from ewes' milk, which is produced in a limited region of south-west France, in the Aveyron department. Although milk is collected from many farms in the vicinity, the actual ripening of Roquefort is carried out exclusively  in the tiny village of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, in the caves of Mont Combalou, whose fissured rock walls give rise to a unique system of natural ventilation.

Finally, my personal cheese champion of champions is Ossau-Iraty, also made from ewes' milk, produced in south-west France at the foot of the Pyrénées. In the name of the cheese, Ossau designates a mountain in the Béarn province, whereas Iraty is a forest in the French Basque region, and these two landmarks delimit the official territory in which this cheese is produced. The environment looks much like this:

Over the last few years, I've acquired a taste for this extraordinary smooth cheese, whose milky flavor has an indescribable nutty redolence. Here's a slice I bought yesterday at the local supermarket:

I've often talked about this cheese with people in shops, because I've never understand why such a fabulous product seems to remain relatively unknown. This morning, I was thrilled to discover that, in Britain recently, Ossau-Iraty was crowned the 2011 world champion cheese. Click here to access the relevant page of the Guild of Fine Food.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spanish strawberries and Norman dairy products

A few days ago, a short break in the wet weather gave me a chance to remove as many weeds as possible from my strawberry patch.

The bushes appear to be quite vigorous, so the yield should be good… like last year. But there won't be any strawberries for a while yet. Meanwhile, I couldn't resist the temptation of buying 2 kilos of giant Spanish strawberries at St-Marcellin this morning.

As expected, they're too big to be particularly tasty. One has the impression that they're full of water, and not very sweet. But they're refreshing, a little like eating freshly-picked fruit that hasn't yet been warmed up by the sun.

Last night, there was an interesting TV documentary about the phenomenon of butter in France. Often, I think back to the excellent butter that was produced in the Grafton area when I was a kid. At our annual agricultural fair, called "the show", private producers submitted their butter for judging. I recall fondly the view of lines of wooden boxes, full of dark cream butter, neatly labeled on handwritten cards with the names and addresses of producers, along with a mention of any prize they had won. The lid of each box was removed, allowing visitors to admire the producer's name and logo, embossed on the surface of the butter, with a patched-up wound where samples had been removed for the tasting and judging. As a kid, I liked butter, but I still couldn't imagine how people would actually judge the respective qualities of all these specimens. Funnily, I still remember that the contents of a box of butter weighed exactly 56 pounds. (I think we must have learned that at school.) There don't seem to be any good photos of Australian butter boxes on the web, but here's a Canadian model, which appears to be identical to those of my childhood.

In yesterday's TV program on French butter, a producer belonging to a cooperative named Isigny Sainte-Mère, in the Norman town of Isigny-sur-Mer [display website], went into a euphoric state when he learned that their butter had been awarded the first prize. This morning, out of curiosity (but no doubt with childhood recollections of Grafton's agricultural fair in my mind), I bought a small block of Isigny butter.

Recalling that I had just bought a box of strawberries, I also reached for a jar of Isigny cream.

As you might gather, I'm a compulsive consumer when it comes to foodstuffs. But those dairy products from the cooperative of Isigny Sainte-Mère are indeed delicious.