Brin d’Amour from Île de Beauté

Brin d’amour

Brin d’Amour from Corsica

There is this beautiful French island Corsica south-east of Nice and south of Genova with a lot of cheese of which my absolute favourite is Brin d’Amour. A ewe’s milk cheese covered with dried local herbs. Creamy when young and firmer with some age. The paste is so beautifully white while the rind can appear anything from rather boring grey to rather colourful. A small scale, farm made raw milk cheese of course. But mind you, it has a pasteurised, more industrial cousin called Fleur de Maquis.

Brin d’Amour – A breath of Love

Yeah, that’s what it means. A breath of love, isn’t that beautiful? And a beauty it is. The name actually refers to the aromatic coating of rosemary, fennel seeds, thyme and juniper berries applied during production to enhance the natural flavours of the island, and it pairs very well with the milk which also brings along flavours from the vegetation the sheep feed on. That’s called maquis which is a Mediterranean plant community of evergreen shrubs and small trees. The maquis is a dense, often almost impenetrable thicket of 1.5–5 m tall shrubs with stiff, jagged branches and small dark green, leathery leaves (Wikipedia). With those fodder challenges the milk and eventually cheese has to be good. Taste is fresh with a good amount of acidity, more the younger the cheese, but might become more challenging with age. You might also find some barnyard notes on the palate. Usually matured for a month, but you can find both younger and older variants. I must admit I am not all that happy with flavoured cheese, being it truffle or kelp or whatever some choose to flavour their cheese with. I prefer the real taste of the cheese. But Brin d’Amour is an exception. I love it.

Brin d’Amour
An older cheese with a far less attractive exterior, but don’t be judgemental.

The rind

A few words about the rind. Can or should you eat it? Yes you can eat it, especially when the cheese is young. The older it gets the drier the herbs and not all think it’s a good idea to have their mouth filled with sharp needles, because that’s what it will feel like. But, if you’re tougher than the rest, go for it. It will add an extra herby tang to the cheese.

To drink with Brin d’Amour

Not so sure about the white wine here, well it always works, I would say. But a local red would also work just fine. And they do make good rosés, so it really depends on your mood. Corsica makes great wines but they are largely little known. The best come from Ajaccio and Patrimonio, but also look out for wines from the Vin de Corse Sartène, Figari and Porto Vecchio appellations. If you’re there, I suppose anything will work. And as always, check it out with the locals, what do they prefer? Is just you, your cheese and some bread, or do you have some other food as well?

Going there?

I’ve never been there I must admit, but I love their cheese, and there are more than just the Brin d’Amour. They call their island «l’Ile de Beauté», and rightfully so. You can get there by air, and arrive at the Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport across the bay from the city. You can arrive by boat, for instance fly to Nice and take one of the ferries from there, going to Bastia most of them, but there are other available ports. Once you’re there you can rent a car or motorcycle, or you can choose public transport to get around the island. There is a lot to do and see, so make sure you check out Visit Corsica to get inspired. Perhaps wise to avoid the peak of summer, spring and autumn is probably better. Anyway, «winter» is very short in Corsica.

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Klein River Cheese – Stanford, South Africa

There are times coming to a new place feels like coming home. Klein River Cheese is such a place. So heartily greeted and taken care of. Klein River cheese neatly nestled along the Klein river with a huge park garden, just outside Stanford in the Stanford valley. It´s definitely a farm, but most of all a farm dairy, they do not do dairy farming themselves, but buy their milk from a few surrounding farmers, partly family.

Klein river cheese
Some of Klein River Cheese’s assortment served in their garden.

The cheese they make at Klein River Cheese vary from soft to hard and the most famous is their Gruberg, a Swiss alpine style reminiscent of a Gruyère. This cheese is also included in the Academy of Cheese library, quite an honour that is. But they have a good variety of cheese from young to very well matured, washed rind and natural rinds. They even have a cheese called Parmesan which they are allowed to in South Africa. A couple of Danish varieties, too – Havarti and Danbo. No Norwegian though, how can that be? What about using some of the whey from the cheese making to make a brown cheese. I am sure most South Africans have a sweet tooth, so that would be a hit.

We plan to visit Klein River Farm on our South Africa trip November 2024. On my visit I was lucky enough to be guided around the whole dairy included the huge maturing area. I must admit it takes a brain smarter than mine to keep track of all those cheeses and which is ready when. They’re doing very well, so there is definitely a system. We cannot expect to have a whole group guided through the dairy but my hope is that we can sit down in the garden or at The Veranda for a cheese tasting with wine, or perhaps beer for a change, and listen to their story. I am sure that will be a wonderful memory to take home. They make fantastic cheeses, well worth tasting.

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Why Cheese and why should you go there?

Il sapore dei prati – The taste of the meadows. Panel discussion on climate change.

Cheese 2023 is history, but those attending have most probably gone home with new knowledge, ideas and fresh impulses whether you make cheese, sell it, or is just a nerd that cannot be surrounded by enough cheese. This festival in Bra, let’s call it a festival, is cheese for tasting, for buying and exploring. And of course it is networking, meeting up with people you know and connect with new ones. There are seminars and panel discussions, this year’s topic was Meadows, the fact is they are slowly disappearing. All over. If you want biodiversity, if you want terroir, well then you also need meadows. That simple.

Two years till next Cheese

You’ve got time to plan in other words. Arranged in Bra by the Slow Food Foundation which resides in Bra. The whole town is enjoying the massive influx of people and is involved in Cheese one way or the other. So what should you plan to do? You can just stroll around, take in the atmosphere, taste cheese, sit down for a coffee (and a grappa if you like), have light or heavy lunches, talk to people at the huge number of stands around the town, taste wine and cheese at the large tasting hall, listen in to panel discussions, seminars, go to guided tastings. Mostly with wine, but there were cheese with beer, with grappa, and unfortunately the one with coffee was cancelled. To secure a ticket for the tasting you have to book early. Some of the activities are free, others are payable, typically such as the guided tastings. Slow Food is also concerned with tradition so they have programs to help threatened breeds, products or other related issues to survive. Not only cheese, anything food.

Cheese for any palate

Who should go?

Anyone with a special interest for cheese. Being a producer – big or small, trader, merchant, journalist, nerd, foodie, chef. Well anyone dealing with something cheese related or just enjoying it and are curious about the cheese world. it is so diverse, you really cannot imagine before you have been there. This was my third time visiting and i had the pleasure of guiding a small group as I did last time.

Also read: Alpine cheese, is the older always the better?

Cheese always have a theme

This year it was all about meadows. The sad fact is that they are disappearing. Fast. In the mountains a well as at the flatlands. Giving way to urban development. This has an impact on our food supply as well as our climate, pretty basic both of them for our survival. Sounds very dramatic of course, but the thing is if we let this just continue that’s where we’ll end up. Not in my life time, but one day.

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Bleu d’Auvergne – what’s so special about it?

bleu d'auvergne
Bleu d’Auvergne

Bleu d’Auvergne, my go to week-end breakfast blue cheese. With my home made breakfast rolls, farm butter and pour over drip made coffee. I purchase my cheese from a cheese monger, so I am sure it is made from raw milk, or “lait cru” as the French will say. There is a lot of Bleu d’Auvergne made from heat treated milk, thermised or pasteurised that is. The latter being industrial varieties. There are eight farmhouse cheese makers though, so look for them. Some say this is a cows’ milk copy of Roquefort. I don’t agree thinking Bleu de Causses as a better candidate for that title.

Invented by Antoine Roussel?

As we know it today, Bleu d’Auvergne is not an old cheese. Some say it was invented around 1854 by an Antoine Roussel, but that is not all true. The cheese had been there for years, the various farmers around the area making their own variant, and none of the particularly consistent. So the blue mould was in a way living their own life. Having worked at a pharmacy as a youngster he was used to observing processes and the art of preciseness. That’s what he brought home to his family’s farm. He started to experiment how to tame the blue mould that so far had behaved rather randomly in the cheese interior. That again led to a lack of consistency in the cheese. He started out with the mould and observed how it developed on rye bread. Well he could have looked to Roquefort as they had probably done that for a long time already. Sometimes, we have to find out for ourselves, though. That did not help help with the distribution of moulds inside the cheese, which really was the problem.

Bleu d’Auvergne the first pierced cheese?

What the young Antione Roussel found out was that piercing the cheese with a needle made the blue mould grow along that canal, so he created an instrument with many needles and thus creating a cheese interior that was rather well organised. So as far as I know he was the one who introduced the piercing of blue cheeses that has become so common today. He shared his new won knowledge with the other cheese makers in the area, and they adopted it. As such you can say the new Bleu d’Auvergne was born.

The piercing structures the development of the blue mould, that is so, but the mould does not need these oxygen canals to develop as both the Spanish Cabrales and the French Bleu de Termignon and maybe others, are examples of. Even so, most makers of blue cheese today make use of the needles.

What’s so special about it?

Obviously the piercing thing, as the history is told they were the first to use the technique. It has become quite widespread. That’s something.

Bleu d’Auvergne wine pairing

I started out with recommending Bleu d’Auvergen for breakfast with coffee. Apart from that a sweet white wine is the obvious, although there are other sweet wines as well such as Maury and Banyuls from not far away. For a virgin paring try Rhubarb juice or a rhubarb juice blend. And as always, there is black tea. Milk, no sugar for me, but you take yours according to your own preferences.

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