This blog is unfair to goats and their milk. I have only reviewed 2 goat milk cheeses-and have proclaimed both to be overly “goaty,” like that’s a bad thing. Just because I have lingering PTSD from goats due to my own hippie childhood, doesn’t mean I should pan a whole breed. That’s goat-ist and wrong. I have also neglected the most famous and beloved of all goat cheese-chèvre-which even I like. This grotesque over site shall be rectified today.
St. Maure de Touraine is a chèvre-a fresh goat’s milk cheese from the Loire region of France, It’s named after the small town of Saint Maure de Touraine where the cheese was traditionally made. Goats were introduced to the Loire Valley in the 8th century during the Arab invasions. When the Arabs left, they also left their goats, which was good of them. This cheese is still made in the traditional manner-it’s a small log with a stick of straw running horizontally through its middle. Originally the cheese was formed around the straw to help it keep its shape as it aged due to the delicate and fragile nature of a fresh goat cheese. The straw was also used to patch together broken cheeses. Although inedible, the straw is part of the St. Maure de Touraine experience.
St. Maure de Touraine received AOC status in 1990. The AOC protects the name-for the most part-and also the method of production for this cheese. The goat’s milk is heated, coagulated and then ladled into long molds where it can drain naturally. After it drains, the straw is inserted-and this is the best part-these days, that formerly vestigal and useless rye straw is now pyrographed with a laser! On each straw is emblazoned a code with the identification number of the cheese-maker. It’s like a microchip for a dog. I’m just crazy about this combination of old-timey cheese and new-fangled technology.
After the insertion of the identifier straw, the cheese is covered with salt and ash and left to drain some more-at least 10 days, but up to 4 weeks. The cheese ages in a cellar and is turned daily. Alas, my straw is cut up and all cheesey, so I can’t figure out the engraving, but it certainly looks genuine. Actually, this straw engraving thing is making me anxious, why can’t I read my straw? Most great cheeses also have great pretenders, laying in wait for those buyers not carefully looking for the details. There is a cheese called “Sainte-Maure” which is also made in Touraine and looks identical, but doesn’t follow the strict AOC criteria. “Sainte-Maure” is industrially made and its straw does not bear the correct laser imprinting. This better not be an impostor. Actually, I do believe that my little log of St. Maure de Touraine is real, straw aside-as the label claims it is AOC. Who would be foolish enough to tempt the AOC gods?
This little log slice of St. Maure de Touraine is perhaps the strangest looking cheese I have sampled. The paste is a creamy white. The rind is an ash, white and blue mould concoction. I just popped out the straw. It is dark brown and hollow. According to cheese lore, you should never start with the narrowest end of the log of this cheese- this is disrespectful and akin to “cutting the udder off a goat.” Alas, it all looked the same to me. Sorry, goat udder. Speaking of goat udders, there is no mistaking the smell of this cheese. It is quite goaty, but not in an overly offensive way. It’s quite mild and inviting-and I say this as a person with a low goat tolerance.
Ohhhh, man, it’s just freaking great! It’s unbelievably yummy. I can’t believe I’m writing this about a goat’s cheese. This cheese is shocking! The interior is the creamiest cloud of goat love-smooth, inviting, knowing-but the rind adds a spicy kick. It’s udderly complex and unbelievably toothsome. It’s just a little sweet, but also salty in perfect harmony. There is no hint of uric acid-it’s completely smooth, but that rind is making my mouth and throat tingle. I haven’t experienced this before, is it the ash, is it an allergy? Who knows? Who cares? My mouth is confused: it burns, and it melts. What the hell is in this cheese? (besides a straw). And to think I thought all chèvre was the same crumbly goat thing, not so! I’m a convert, and you should be too. Go out and splurge on this strange little log-you can thank me later.