I had made three different kinds of cheese within the first three days of being here. The cheese is made every day from raw, unpasturised milk, fresh from the daily milking. The milking parlour is directly in front of the fromagery, which is right next to the shed and yard. The goats are a rare breed called Chevre du Rove which are specialist to this area although originally from Greece or Turkey. They love the Provencal scrubland, which in French is called garrigue, it is a rough, rocky landscape with hardy bushes, trees and herbs such as rosemary, thyme. The goats like to eat the leaves of the holm oak, a tree that seems more like a holly than an oak as the evergreen leaves are tough and prickly. I can’t understand how they enjoy it so much and how it is that they don’t cut themselves eating it. It seems hard to believe that they transform this diet into the pure white milk that they produce.
The goats yield about 50 litres of milk per day at the moment, I think (it is not easy understanding all the details as my French isn’t very good yet!) The three main different kinds of cheeses are Brousse, Faiselle and one just called Fromage. Faiselle and Brousse are local specialities, all the cheeses are fresh, soft and light but also all quite different and made with different procedures. Both Brousse and Faiselle have an almost yoghurt-like texture, they are very versatile and are eaten both savoury and sweet, and often as a desert with honey, fruit or sometimes on crepes (crepes are from Nothern France originally I have now discovered).
Fromage is a small round shaped cheese it is eaten after the main course and before the fruit course of a meal; the meals consist of lots of stages here. It is made in a mould, which it fills to the rim at first, when you ladle it in but as the whey drains out of it, through little wholes, it sinks down to half the size. After it sits over night, I understand that it is turned and sprinkled with salt. It is can be eaten within a week. Mostly the customers are local restaurants and shops although a cheese monger buys cheese from here and matures it and sells it on all around the world as far away as Japan!
For the Brousse the milk is heated and then cooled and then vinegar is added which makes it curdle, separating the curd from the whey, then the whey is drained off through a muslin and when a firm but stiff consistency is reached by turning it with a laddle it is ready and then spooned into small cones or larger tubs.
I liked the texture and tastes of the cheeses when I first tasted them, I was curious about them but I wasn't totally amazed. Now I really love them, they are light, nourishing and rustic and they have come straight from the land through an amazingly uncomplicated but specific goaty alchemical transformation.