Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Cheese and I

An Englishman’s voyage through the land of fromage

We have a newly published book for cheese lovers. According to France Magazine it’s “a heart-warming tale of determination and passion that may inspire readers to chase their dreams, or reach for the cheese and crackers.”   Either way, it sounds like an interesting tale. Well, at least for us cheesemongers 😉

Matt Feroze had a rather unusual dream: to become a cheesemonger in the highly competitive French cheese industry. To accomplish this, however, he would have to make huge sacrifices: give up a good job as an accountant in England and say goodbye to his friends and family, moving to a country in which he struggled with the language and knew next to nothing about the profession he wished to enter. Continue reading

Clément Faugier Crème de Marrons

A recipe, design and product that hasn’t changed in over one hundred years? These ingredients might seem to make for a very outdated marketing strategy, but French food company Clément Faugier has proven that an unaltered offering for the last century has the French coming back for more.

chestnut spreadThat offering is Crème de Marrons de l’Ardèche (sweet chestnut purée from the Ardèche), invented by company founder Clément Faugier. Faugier first set up a chestnut-based foods factory in the small village of Privas, in central France in 1882. What started out as a family business with a dozen employees has grown into one of France’s most respected food brands with exports to over 80 countries.

For the first three years, the factory made marrons glacés, or candied chestnuts, a popular delicacy in France. Trying to find a way to recycle the “debris” from these sweets, Faugier created his own recipe for crème de marrons. The factory has been churning out the stuff ever since and it has become a popular food, eaten with yogurt, ice cream and many other sweets throughout France. Today, Clément Faugier’s crème de marrons holds a monopoly in that food category with an 80 percent market share in France. Continue reading

French Sheep’s Milk Cheeses

Ossau Iraty

Ossau IratyOssau Iraty is a classic sheep’s milk cheese made in the French Pyrénées in two neighboring provinces: the Ossau Valley and the wooded hills of Iraty in the French Basque country. Ossau Iraty is made with the milk of the Manech and Basco-Bearnaise ewes. It has been recognized as an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) product since 1980. It is one of only two sheep’s milk cheeses granted AOC status in France (the other is Roquefort). Although Ossau-Iraty received AOC status in the 80s, it is of ancient origin, traditionally made by the shepherds in the region. Continue reading

Tête de Moine

Tête de Moine cheese is a semi-hard Swiss cheese with a silky body which easily melts in your mouth. It is not cut, but shaved into delicate rosettes. The shaving technique increases the amount of air coming into contact with the surface of the cheese, altering the structure of its body and allowing the full flavour of Tête de Moine cheese to develop, giving the cheese an even more delicious taste.

Rosette

Tête de Moine was invented by monks at Bellelay Abbey, in the Bernese Jura mountains. They later taught the local farmers how to make the cheese and its production has spread to many small dairies throughout the area of the Bernese Jura. Traditionally it was only made from summer milk and sold from when the first leaves of autumn began to fall, through until March. Nowadays it is made and sold throughout the year. Continue reading

The Eight Categories of French Cheese

In France, cheese is traditionally grouped into eight categories, known as ‘les huit familles de fromage’. They need a lot of categories because there are a lot of cheeses. It is said that there are so many different types of French cheese that even if you ate a different one each day, you still wouldn’t have tasted all of them after a year!

With all of these varieties, there is a lot you could learn about French cheese, but the most important thing is to pull up a chair and start tasting. Here is an introduction to the eight families to get you started.

1. Fresh Cheeses (Fromages Frais)

Fromage Frais

Fromage Frais

These cheeses are white and contain a lot of water. They are made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or sheep’s milk and are not aged. Rather than adding rennet, which is used to create some cheeses, the curd is formed by adding lactic starter to the milk.

These are not the types of French cheese you would see offered on a cheese platter at a meal. Rather they are eaten separately, sometimes in the same manner as a yogurt, and sometimes used in recipes. Continue reading

Understanding Ripeness Can Help You Pick Better Cheese

photo1Understanding how cheeses age is about as important as being aware of the difference between a perfectly ripened peach and one that is as hard as a softball. Knowing what’s right is most definitely to your gustatory advantage, no? With just a few tips and facts about how to tell a ripe cheese from one that’s not, you’ll be better equipped to pick out the perfect piece– all by yourself.

The most important fact to keep in mind is that cheese ripens from the outside in. Unless it’s a blue cheese, which is the only style that begins ripening from the inside, ripening action is initiated by molds or bacteria on the exterior rind, which then begin the process of breaking down the fats and proteins on the interior of the cheese.

The following guidelines refer to softer cheeses like bloomies and washed rinds. It’s for the way in which they age that these two styles of cheese are called “soft-ripened” cheeses, since they become softer and softer over time. Continue reading