Monday, December 28, 2009

All About Cheese: Intro and Fromagerie Tournevant

While I'm busy toiling away, finishing that business plan, I figure I should keep you entertained by telling you more about the delicious items you can expect to enjoy once my shop opens. Many of these foods and beverages will also be available in the Tea and Cheese Clubs, so you can enjoy some of them even before the actual shop opens!

A major tenet of my store is the importance of EDUCATION. I don't just mean going to school, boys and girls; I mean knowing about what you eat, how it's made or grown and who makes or grows it, what's in it and from whence it comes.

Those of you who know me professionally know I've taught a handful of seminars on cheese -- everything from The Basics of Cheese to more specific fare like The Pecorinos You Don't Know. I've presented on cheese in three states, in two stores, one museum, one college and on one radio station, and that's just the formal classes. I'm like the Johnny Appleseed of cheese info: everywhere I go, I spread little bits of cheese knowledge.

And that's what I'll do in my shop, too. I'll have a convenient venue and plenty of inventory. But it won't just be me telling you the ways of the curds. I will have other folks coming in to share their knowledge on cheese, tea and other fun food stuff. Of course every class, no matter who teaches it, will center around you getting to eat and drink the subject matter! This isn't musty textbook lectures; this is hands-on! Or mouths-on.

So let us begin your cheese education right now. I'm going to tell you what I know about some of the cheeses I'll be selling. If you know more about any of them, feel free to send me a message and share your knowledge! I love learning new things, especially when they have to do with CHEESE!

An awesome, lovely person I know chooses to only eat cheese made from the milk of sheep and goats. These animals' milks are much easier than cows' milk for some people to digest. Plus, anyone concerned with BGH (or r-BST) need not worry about sheep or goats' milk; BGH stands for Bovine Growth Hormone, and Bovine means cow. So, let's start with some goat cheese, shall we?

Our first stop is Canada. Québec, to be exact, where we will explore the cheeses made by Fromagerie Tournevant.

Many people love the soft, fresh goat cheese known simply as "chèvre." (NB. chèvre simply means "goat" in French) I love it, too, but most fresh chèvre out there, even many from France, are kind of horrible. They are vacuum-packed so they can't breathe; thus, they are overly acidic with a flat, acrid taste and a gummy texture. Blecch!

Not so with Tournevant's Le Biquet. These have a moist, flaky texture and a more balanced flavor. Yes, they are tangy, because fresh goat cheese should be tangy, but they are far from acrid. The flavor is more bright than acidic. I think they are superb. Le Biquet comes with herbs and au naturel. I plan to get both. I'm not a huge fan of cheese with "stuff" in it, but there are a few -- like fresh goat cheese -- where herbs are entirely appropriate.

Like any delicious fresh goat cheese, Le Biquet is fine on its own, spread onto a baguette or some crispy crackers. You can also crumble it over your salads, put it on a burger, panino or pizza. For a fancy trick, slice it into discs (use unflavored dental floss for the cleanest cut -- yup, that's a catering secret!) and broil it on slices of bread for just long enough for the cheese to get a little brown 'n' bubbly. Mmm... If you're really fancy, you can also stuff it into your homemade ravioli or tortellini.

One of the reasons Le Biquet is a superior fresh goat cheese is because of the pasteurization method used by Tournevant: the "slower and lower" method. Because Le Biquet is aged for fewer than 60 days, by FDA law the milk used to make it must be pasteurized.

There are two main ways to pasteurize milk: one is to heat the milk to 63˚C and hold it for 30 minutes; the other is to heat the milk to 73˚C and hold it for 15 seconds. For large cheese factories, the latter, "nuclear blast" method makes sense because it's fast, and time is money, kids. The problem with this is it literally cooks all the flavor from the milk. You've accidentally burned milk at home, haven't you? It tastes pretty bad. Well, imagine what it does to cheese: it makes it taste flat, with little nuance.

Now let's look at the slower, lower-temperature method. It's still completing the pasteurization process, but the lower temperature allows some of the beneficial bacteria in the milk to remain, and this beneficial bacteria gives the cheese a more nuanced flavor and a more traditional, pleasant texture.

Tournevant uses the "slower and lower" method to pasteurize the milk they use for their cheese. It takes more time and a lot more attention to detail, but it is entirely worth it.

The other Tournevant cheese I plan to offer is Chèvre Noir, a cheddar-type cheese aged for at least twelve months. This is one of the goat cheeses we cheesemongers like to feed to people who claim they "don't like goat cheese." Of course we rarely believe them; we know they have been poisoned against goat cheese by a lifetime of nasty, substandard specimens.

We have a remedy!

Chèvre Noir!

It is unrepentantly fruity, with a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture, a toasty hint of roasted nuts and none of that yucky "goat-butt" animally flavor that's done so much to scare people away from goat cheese. Being aged for so long, it's on the semi-firm side with a little bit of flaky crumble, but it's easy to handle and even easier to eat. I like to snack on it as is, but you might like to melt it on your sandwich. With a schmear of your favorite fruit jam, it'll make a kick-ass grilled cheese sammich!

For anyone who loves cheddar but can't or won't have cows' milk cheeses, Chèvre Noir is an excellent solution.

But even if you can eat all the cows' milk cheeses you can stuff into your face, it's still a good idea to eat Chèvre Noir. It's one of my favorites, and you know how much of a picky, pain-in-the-ass I am when it comes to cheese!

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to more edification and inspiration on these and other cheese matters. Le liste des blogs will see a new number by daybreak.