Cheeses anyone? For the love of cheeses!!

Ok so written plenty on wines, and not on my other love cheeses. Again, my fault, this is a big omission. However, as the saying goes , better late than never. Therefore, here is my first post on cheeses, an introduction, more will be coming, promise.

I have chosen an overview on the cheeses of France and Spain. My two worlds and two heavy hitters in the world of cheeses. However, first a very brief overview of a broad subject; cheese comes from…

Although it seems the legend, or the story, or both together, tell us about a Sumerian shepherd of sheep, or goats, or both, back there around 5000 BC, who kept a part of the freshly milked milk from his herd in a container that was neither more nor less than the stuffed stomach of one of his animals. Legend does not say it, but it was the fourth stomach, called abomasum or, more commonly, curdling. Therefore, there is nothing more to add: white and abomasums … CHEESE. I affirm- that the first cheese in history -or legend if you prefer was a mixed coagulation cheese with a marked lactic tendency. Well, something like the increasingly well-known goat rollers ,and there are also sheep that we have the possibility to taste without thinking that they necessarily come from beyond the Pyrenees. The truth is that cheese, as an efficient and effective way of preserving milk, was the first known dairy product that transcended borders and civilizations, a true economic and cultural engine that over time has only improved and improved its condition.It is not an exaggeration to say that a good way , but not the only way , to get to know a region, a country and its people is through its cheeses (amen) Read all about it in the book by Bronween Percival in her book ‘Reinventing the wheel’.

It is worth noting (bragging here…) that the principle of heat treatment in the food industry is due to a humble French pastry chef named Nicolas Appert of Chalons-en-Champagne who applied it to hermetically packed plant and animal foods in glass containers , thus solving one of the most serious and pressing supply problems of the Napoleonic army, which is why even today he is considered the father of the canning industry. But it had to be another Frenchman, Louis Pasteur of Dôle who, interpreting the concept of Mr Appert , who died without knowing why he had achieved such success would first apply it to wine , then in beer; and later in milk (pasteurisation).

Today, where cheeses for family consumption in their origins, with the Camembert or Brie in France as ‘primus inter pares’ of an overwhelming family of fresh and soft and semi-hard cheeses, have experienced sustained growth underpinned by the third pillar of the revolution industrial applied to food: cold storage. Thus, today the cheese world moves between mega factories with state-of-the-art equipment and hardware / software, with increasingly deep and developed raw material and process standardization concepts and small cheese factories where the milk produced by the cattlerancher themselves and following practices as ancient as the grandparents of our grandparents’ grandparents … and grandmothers. And, between both extremes, all the possibilities and realities that have been and will be. Take it from me get the cattlerancher’s cheeses and raw milk, simply the best!

Now, lets go to Spain, shall we!

There are 26 cheeses in Spain with denomination of origins, they are listed in Spanish here: Ceres Spain on Cheeses of Spain

You can read more information in Spanish on all of them including my favorites below:

The Manchego cheese is one of the most famous in Spain and in all of Europe. These cheeses are known worldwide and historically have won numerous gastronomic awards for their quality and inimitable flavor. Manchego cheese is made from the milk of La Mancha sheep and has a minimum cure of 30 days and a maximum maturity of 2 years. These cheeses, if you have not yet tried them, are usually characterized by having a hard crust and free of plastics, a firm and compact paste and with a color that varies from white to ivory yellow. This is Castilla La Mancha autonomous region of the kingdom of Spain! I buy when there or from a Spanish own store in Paris, Cap Hispania already written on it in my blog.

Huete

Then , there are others nice ones such as:

Torta del Casar of Cáceres, is a cheese made using traditional methods based on raw sheep’s milk, from controlled livestock, vegetable rennet and salt.

Idiazábal from Navarra-País Vasco, a cheese made from Latxa and Carranzana sheep’s milk, unmixed and unpasteurized. The production and processing area for milk and cheese is the Basque Country and Navarra, except for the municipalities that make up the Roncal Valley.

Cabrales of Asturias, is a natural cheese, handcrafted by the farmers themselves, with raw cow’s milk or with a mixture of two or three kinds of milk: cow, sheep and goat.

Grazalema of Cádiz, is one of the most sought-after cheeses. It is made with milk from Merino sheep and Payoya breed goats, which are indigenous to the Sierra de Grazalema. It is a cylindrical cheese, with a weight that ranges between 1.5 and 2.5 kilos. It has a firm texture and an intense, fatty and slightly spicy flavor.

The San Simón de Costa from Lugo, Galicia, is a smoked cheese made from cow’s milk from the Rubia Gallega, Parda Alpina, Frisona and crossbreeds. It has a characteristic shape, intermediate between top and bullet, ending in the upper part in a beak.

And in my adopted country of France!

From the Cheese guide to follow or le guide du fromage you can see France has over 10K name cheeses. The webpage is here in French; Le Guide du Fromage of France

The types varied according to the definition and can go to over 400 different types and 45 have AOC by France or AOP by the EU; 6 have geographical designations or IGP and 6 others have red labels or label rouge.The Association of French terroir cheese have a webpage in English to tell you more about the cheeses better than I here: Fromages de Terroirs of France

Some of my favorites from France are of course my sentimental Brie de Meaux, the king of cheeses, or the cheese of kings Vienna congress 1815! This have written a couple of post already in my blog.

The Brie de Meaux is done on a covering crusted in hormones of the cow’s milk ,soft and fondant, it has a flowery smell and it is delicious alone or with bread or an apple or even with honey. It takes about 25 liters of milk for 3,5 kg of cheese in a round form. It was first given credit to be created in the Abbey of Notre Dame de Jouarre about 17 kms from Meaux. However, the best is still around the town of Meaux and Jouarre.

meaux

And then, there are others in no particular rank.

The Coulommiers is a soft, unpressed and uncooked cow’s milk cheese, composed of 45 to 50% fat from Coulommiers, related to Brie, even if it has not been produced in the city since long time.

The famous Camembert of Normandy, I have it sometimes in raw milk from La Fromagerie d’Eugénie done in Languidic,  (very near me), Morbihan breton. Yes one of those cheeses that as long as the process is maintain can be made anywhere. These folks here makes it good.

languidic

The Crémeux du Mont-Saint-Michel or creamy cheese is a soft cheese from Normandy with a floral rind and made with raw whole milk from Normandy cows. The Crémeux du Mont-Saint-Michel is enriched with cream from a local farmer, and if you have the patience to wait for it to mature perfectly, it will be tasty creamy.

The Pont l’Évêque is a soft, cow-milk cheese with a floral rind that can be brushed or washed. It is made in Normandy. Its name comes from the town of Pont-l’Évêque located between Lisieux and Deauville in the heart of the Auge region.

The Deauville is a partially skimmed, soft pasteurized cow’s milk cheese with a washed rind. It is produced by the Houssaye cheese dairy located in the town of Saint-Pierre-en-Auge (formerly called Boissey) in the Calvados department in Normandy.

The Ossau-Iraty is an appellation of origin designating an uncooked pressed sheep’s milk cheese made in the departments of Pyrénées-Atlantiques and some towns of Hautes-Pyrénées. The cheese comes from the Basque Country and Béarn, the Ossau-Iraty appellation originates from the Midi d’Ossau peak and the Iraty forest.

The Timanoix is an uncooked pressed pasteurized cow’s milk cheese, ripened with nut liqueur and made in the Trappist tradition. It is handcrafted by the monks of Timadeuc Abbey, located in Bréhan, in Morbihan, in the Brittany region. The local favorite.

The Sainte-Maure de Touraine is a raw (my take) and whole goat’s milk cheese, with a mainly lactic soft paste and a natural and ashy rind, produced in several towns of the department of Indre-et-Loire and some towns of the departments of l ‘Indre and Loir-et-Cher in the Centre-Val de Loire region.

The Selles-sur-Cher is a whole, raw milk cheese from a soft goat cheese with a flower-rind crust made with vegetable charcoal. It is from the village of the same name, Selles-sur-Cher, located in the department of Loir-et-Cher in the Centre-Val de Loire region.

selles sur cher

The Valençay is a berrichon goat cheese, done in a pyramid mold, and from the Centre-Val de Loire region.

The Cabri de Touraine is made from raw, whole goat milk, soft cheese and a floral, ashy rind, made by the Cloche d’Or cheese dairy located in Pont-de-Ruan in the department of Indre-et-Loire in the Centre-Val de Loire region.

The Chaource is made from raw (my take) or pasteurized cow’s milk, with a soft paste and a floral rind, originating in the town of the same name, located in the department of Aube in the Grand-Est region.

There you go , of course, bear in mind the above are just my favorites out of thousands! The taste and feel is so varied there is a cheese for everyone as in wines. However, hope you try one of the above, there are sublimes! Enjoy the cheeses of France and Spain.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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