The representation of raw milk cheese in grocery stores is a very Norwegian issue. I’ve performed sort of a status check locally, knowing the Oslo area is different from the rest of the country, probably. Grocery stores in this context means supermarkets. If you’re hunting cheese from raw milk, the discount stores, representing some 60 per cent of the grocery market, is a meager place to look. Of course, there is always a pre-packed Parmigiano Reggiano. Even a Grana Padano in some of the stores if they need a somewhat cheaper variety.
Galopin – new kid on the block? No not really, they’ve been around for a while, under an other name and management. They used to be Ma Poule in Norway, at the Oslo Food hall, but they had to close down, and Galopin has arisen as a phoenix from whatever remained after Ma Poule. A scaled down concept, these days, which I think is more well suited to the market it is supposed to serve. However things were, I appreciated their presence giving more variety to the Oslo cheese scene. A bit of charcuterie as well. C’est tout.
Since it’s July 14th today, I thought it would be a suitable occasion to revisit France. Originally I started with France, the cheese country above all. That said, it does not mean
that excellent cheese is not made other places or that other countries have no tradition for making cheese. not so at all. And if history is somewhat accountable, it all started in Mesopotamia. But France and the French have their own way with cheese and where it hails from, a pride not seen anywhere else and of course old cheese making traditions. Traditions that are challenged every day, and not in a positive way.
Norway has, for centuries been ruled by mostly Denmark, but also Sweden, making the Norwegian soul subjugated. We’re starving for recognition even though we’re doing quite well. And of course, we think we’re world champions in whatever we’re dealing with, but not receiving the recognition we deserve. So when it happens that we bring home a medal or positive feed-back by other means, we tend to overreact. We’re generally speaking, world champions.
The other week I had the pleasure of participating in a guided tasting of mature chèvre here in Oslo. Mons and their Norwegian importer invited. Up for tasting was among other cheeses mature chèvre. The others being both bloomy and washed rind cheeses which will not be of any focus in this post. Amomg the chèvres, there was also a small puck style ewe’s milk cheese from Provence. For the purpose of this post, it will count as “chèvre”.
Mature chèvre, not extra mature
Could be it is just up north where I live we’re so concerned that chèvre is supposed to be rather fresh, I have been shopping very mature chèvres in both Chablis and not least in Bra last autumn which showcased a very rich selection of the cheese. Admittedly, this is a cheese for the advanced cheese lover. Some will, however, readily argue there are many other cheeses as well only for the very committed, an argument I do not quite follow. Enough of that. The cheeses we had up for tasting were not anything as mature as those on the picture below, but a mere two months old or so. But for a lactic chèvre, that is a cheese starting to come of age.
The tasting showed we’re in the habit of eating most chèvre too fresh. Could be we have some bad experience with mature chèvre becoming too sharp and pungent with age. But there is something in the middle, giving a balanced cheese with volume. The acidity that we expect when the cheese is fresh is probably gone. Like old crop coffee. Very good, but lacks acidity. Quite an other cheese, this, giving you an other experience.
What makes this transition?
The maturing, of course. But that said, it does not mean you can just buy a fresh chèvre, leave in in your fridge and expect the same experience. It has something to do with the temperature, humidity, microclimate and love and care. Forgetfulness is, by the way, not part of the maturing treatment. An affineur would not wrap the cheese in any way, either, leaving it for a few months before checking what has happened.
As with Champagne, that is usually drunk too young, most chèvre is eaten too young. I am not saying you should quit doing that, just that some are doing just fine with some more age, and thereby giving you a different kind of experience. It’s not an either or. The fresh ones are more for the light summer evenings, while the mature is for the autumn, sitting down in a contemplative mood. The cheeses are out there, ask for them.
Mature cheeses demand mature wines. There are of course mature Sauvignon blanc, but also try to switch to Chardonnay. Mature Champagne will always work. Some fruity reds as well, we also had a very fine Beaujolais along the mature chèvre. Wonderful.
The mature cheeses we had were:
Cosne de Port Albry from the Loire
Le Saint Haonnois from Roanne, 50/50 goat and cow’s milk
Pouligny from Loire
Le Castillon, from Provence, ewe’s milk