Goat cheese in France is an art, the beautiful and delicate little white rounds of subtle nuttiness that tastes like a creamy cloud when eaten with a crisp Provencal rose wine. We, myself and 5 lovely American ladies, ventured out to the countryside to see art and magic of che in the making. We were off to see the chèvrerie! (Translation: goat cheese farm!)
We set off from Aix in the morning, heading out to the nearby village of Trets to the small farm teaming with hundreds of goats. The specific breed of goat is called rove and the cheese making as it has been done for centuries. We observed the milking process, where the goats were systematically herded into a pen to be mechanically milked and fed simultaneously. Next, we went out to see the goats in the pasture. There we witnessed quite an exhilerating site- two big, male goats with enormous horns were furiously fighting one another by rearing on their hind legs and slamming head on into eachother. They must have continued the head-bang eachother for 30 minutes while we strolled around the pasture area. I guess goats don’t get headaches!
We went back inside to view the cheese molds and the fresh rounds of new, non-pasturized goat cheese. We were surrounded by hundreds of shiny, hand-size circles and it was looking all too tempting and mouthwatering. Finally, we got to go and taste the finished product! The cheese was delicious in its various stages of the aging process. We tried fresh cheese less than 24 hours old, then worked our way up to 1 month old, 3 month old, and 5 month old. The older the cheese, the more shriveled it becomes from loss of moisture and the flavor and aroma intensifies to the extreme. Mold begins to form on the 5 month old cheeses. Personally, I prefer the milder tasting and creamy fresh chèvre to the stinky cheese!
The trip to the chèvrerie was definitely an interesting and satisfying (says our stomachs) excursion into the world of artisan cheese making in Provence. And at this chèvrerie, it seemed as if pasteurization had, thankfully, never happened at all!