Friends, I have a confession. I have literally bitten off more than I can chew with this blog. I planned and committed to tasting and reviewing 365 cheeses over a one year period. Alas, I am scaling back this endeavour to 100 cheeses in 100 days-please forgive me. The cost and logistics of this adventure are more complex than I imagined. However, never fear, I do plan to cover the great known (and perhaps unknown) cheeses over the remaining 70 days.
I’m excited to report that today is my first sheep’s cheese, imagine that! This bloomy rind cheese, Brebiou, is made from pasteurized sheep cheese in the Pyrenees, France. Brebiou is made by the Fromagerie de Chaumes (not to be mistaken for actual Chaumes cheese-I know, it excited me too!) which is an industrial cheese maker. It seems like the line between industrial and artisinal cheese gets a little blurry at times-what actually makes a fromagerie one or the other? The word “artisinal” seems to evoke a certain indication of quality, care or love-but is that really true? Brebiou is a funny looking little cheese, it has a half-round form with an irregular surface that is the result of using large linen cloths in the production-almost as if to evoke that home-made look, like buying ersatz home-made wreaths at Super Store: it’s a little contrived.
Brebiou is a newish cheese-especially for France-it was created in the 1990’s and the actual name is copyrighted-not AOC but good old copyright. Thus only the Fromagerie de Chaumes can make this cheese, local or not. Reviews of this cheese seem relatively positive those sheep lovers, but not all folk are sheep lovers. Other detractors in the non-sheep camp have given it mixed revi(ewes.) I am actually one of those people who adores foul flavour and smells (I am certain this comes as no surprise to the regular reader of this blog) thus the funky taste of sheep and goat’s milk in cheese form does not faze me in the least (please don’t, however, ask me to drink goat’s milk, that is simply heinous beyond belief) so I am quite happy to try this cheese. Other members of my family won’t touch it with a ten foot pole, so do consider the sensibilities of your audience while selecting your cheese.
Interestingly, I thought most cheese was cow, followed by goat-but sheep is the number 2 milk in the cheese world. I can’t actually imagine milking a sheep-I mean how much milk actually comes out of one sheep, and how in the world do they get it out? It seems extremely time-consuming.
My little slice of Brebiou looks like Brie, it has a white bloomy rind, a concave top and a creamy interior, soft and sticky looking. I can’t really smell it until I put my nose right up to it, and then-oh yah, sheepy, ammonia, goodness! I can’t wait any longer.
First the texture is not the creaminess I was expecting, it’s almost a little foamy in my mouth-weird, it actually doesn’t want to melt, despite looking as though it should. Second, the taste, like a tangy sheep hoof . Barn yardy, but not in a really pleasant way, it almost bites your tongue back whilst refusing to melt. This cheese is rather strange-I was expecting creamy and I was expecting sweet, but instead it’s kind of mushy and astringent. Hmm, the second bite is better-but this cheese needs a friend, some dried apricots, perhaps, or a crusty loaf-not a stand alone cheese for me. Nope.