Beyond Brie: French AOC Goat's Milk Cheeses
French Goats' Milk Cheese
If your most adventurous experiment with French cheese to date has been Brie, and you are feeling adventurous at the dinner table one evening, there is nothing like sampling a variety of assorted French goats' milk cheeses to start your tastebuds going! A great place to begin is with the French goats' milk cheeses that are protected by the AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) designation and are available in a large number of varieties, often with their origins dating back to antiquity, or even prehistory! Aged anywhere from a few weeks to much longer, these goats' milk cheeses run the gamut from sharp to sweet to mild, and exploring them is a real treat!
AOC goats' milk cheeses may be somewhat difficult to find outside of France, although there are some online merchants that carry them, but never fear--there are dozens, if not hundreds, of French cheeses made from goat's milk. The difference is that not all of those cheeses are not protected by law, so read the labels to make sure you know what you are buying, if you do not see the AOC designation. The French government vigorously prosecutes any examples it finds of cheese identity theft in violation of the protected AOC designations!
A great introduction to all French cheeses, the cheesemaking process, and much, much more.
AOC French Goats' Milk Cheeses
- Banon - made since Roman times, Banon is sharp and pungent, and ships in a wrapping made of chestnut leaves and tied with raffia. Best tasted in the summer months, this cheese is soaked in eau-de-vie (vodka, already a reason to recommend it) for two weeks before it is ready for sale.
- Chabichou du Poitou - aged for ten to twenty days, this may date from as early as the Roman occupation of France, but was continuously produced in its present form as documented from 732 A.D. Made only in the region of Poitou-Charentes, it is a white, smooth cheese with a beautiful goats'-milk smell.
- Crottin de Chavignol - the most famous of them all, this is made in a village with a current population of only two hundred people. It has been produced since the 16th century, and has a subtle flavour when young; as it ages, it gets harder, and more pungent, but it is still edible even when most people would have thrown it out long ago!
- Pélardon - a traditional goats' milk cheese made near the village of Roussillon, France (where Peter Mayles' A Year in Provence was set). The edible rind is a soft, white mould.
- Picodon - meaning "spicy" in the regional Occitan language, this actually has a soft, fresh taste. It comes in several varieties: Picodon de l'Ardèche, the most common variety, Picodon de Crest, a stronger flavour; Picodon du Dauphiné, well matured; Picodon de Dieulefit, both young and mature; Picodon de la Drôme, both salty and sweet flavours; and Picodon à l'huile d'olive, marinated in bay and olive oil. They can be aged anywhere from fourteen days to a month, and come from the lower Rhône valley.
- Pouligny-Saint-Pierre - made in central France, this incredibly complex-tasting goats' milk cheese comes in the shape of a pyramid and combines a number of salty, sweet and sour flavours together in the same bite! This cheese is aged anywhere from two to five weeks.
- Rocamadour - made in Périgord and Quercy, this can be aged for as little as twelve days, but gets progressively sharper and more complex the longer it ages.
- Sainte-Maure de Touraine - comes shaped in the form of a log, with a grey, mouldy rind. There is a non-protected variety; so look for the straw in the center that marks the true AOC product!