Monday, 29 November 2010

St Maure and St Maure

After tasting all 17 varieties of Paccard’s Reblochon, as well many other affineurs’ and producers’ too, I was ready for a wee break from the big flavoured cheeses of the Savoie. And what better than a nice, fresh, lactic St Maure goats cheese.

St Maure is the original goats log. Thin and long, made in the Loire (where many of France’s famous goat cheeses hail from); it is characteristic by the straw through the middle, used to hold the fragile curd together; by the time it reaches you it’s probably not necessary but when we are handling it, at the early stages of affinage it is indispensable. If you want to impress your friends, pull out the straw and show them inscribed on it in tiny laser writing “St Maure de Touraine” and the producer’s details.

We were having a bit of an experiment at Mons. We needed a bit more St Maure and we already took all of our farmers supply! So we got in several other producers, and aged their cheeses. Then we tasted - comparing against our current supplier as well as comparing our ageing with each producers ageing. And what a difference - there really is St Maure and St Maure! I find the same again and again - although two cheese can share the same name, AOC, region of origin, production techniques, the range in quality is amazing.

After a blind tasting, it was determined: our method of affinage and current supplier was best (of course!). Our cheese had a homogenous, smooth delicate paste and good developed flavour. The others could be a little bit dry, floury, clarty/sticky in the mouth. You can see our cheese in the picture - it's the one with a nice cream line under the skin, the other is a bit dry and floury.

Yet there was another current contender, close to ours but not quite. So what does Hervé do - sends that supplier off to work with our current farmer, to pick up his tricks and tips. Then Hervé visits, watches the production, make suggestions, tweaks. A month down the line and our second producer’s product has increased quality by leaps and bounds; good enough to put our name on it - a George Foreman special!

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