Day 81- Chèvre Noir

If there’s one big take away from my 100 day journey into cheese it’s this: goats are good, and not evil.  I’m not alone in my fear of goats and goat milk.  Goat milk really, really tastes, um, goaty.  And goats have kind of creepy sideways pupils. This shouldn’t stop our enjoyment of goat cheese-just don’t look right at their eyes, and learn to enjoy the eau de farm redolent in goat products.  If I can do it, so can you!

Today’s cheese is Chèvre Noir.  When I first heard the name I thought it was a black cream cheese made of goat milk-which is quite hideous sounding-isn’t it?  Silly me!  It’s actually a goat cheddar, wrapped in a black wax.  Apparently the word chèvre simply refers to the cheese being made of goat’s milk-not all chèvre is spreadable.  Chèvre Noir is a Canadian classic hailing from Chesterville, Quebec and the Fromagerie Tournevent.  It’s been around for over twenty years and is apparently the “most awarded Canadian cheese.

The fromagerie Tournevent was founded in 1976, by a couple who started a dairy goat farm and soon found they had more milk that they could sell (is this really so surprising?).  They decided to produce cheese as a way to use their surplus milk.   By 1986, the milk production became a separate business and the cheese company was able to focus on cheesemaking.   In 2005, the fromagerie was purchased by another Quebec cheese company- Damafro, but still operates under its its own name and using its own production facilities. The goat milk that goes into Chèvre Noir is bought from co-operatives in Quebec that source from about 30 local farms.

Chèvre Noir is a true cheddar, despite the somewhat confusing name.  It is ripened for a minimum of one year before sale, but is also sold at the two and three-year age marks.  The cheddaring technique is used to create this chese-the whey is partly drained and the curd is cut into blocks and stacked, then turned and restacked in order to release moisture. Although it is a cheddar, it’s also clearly a  chèvre it is a pure white cheese-this is because goat’s milk lacks carotene which is responsible for the yellow tone found in cow’s milk cheese.

The milk for Chèvre Noir is neither raw, nor pasteurized, it’s a much less common milk treatment known as thermalization.  Raw milk is just as it sounds-milk straight from the mammary.  Pasteurized milk is heated to scalding to kill all the nasty micro-organisms-and unfortunately  also all the lovely micro-organisms.  Thermalization sits on the fence between the two-the milk is heated to only 60-65 °C for 15 to 30 seconds-this process reduces the number of micro-organisms, but not so much so that the resulting cheese will be without flavor. The United States food administration still considers this to be raw milk, while the European Union consider it pasteurized.  This explains the confusion around this cheese.  It’s raw, but it’s not.

My little square of chèvre noir is quite an attractive looking cheese, it looks like its wearing a tuxedo!  The cheese paste is very white and makes a stark contrast to the black wax-which I shall remove, never fear!  It’s a firm looking cheese, it’s a cheddar, after all.The smell is mild, I can’t catch a whiff of goat, it just smells like a barnyardy cheddar.

Here goes…

Well you can’t smell the goat, but you can certainly taste it!  It’s kind of bizarre.  It’s definitely a cheddar, there’s that sharp, astringent cheesey bite, but it’s also clearly a goat cheese.  There’s that “oops, I stepped in the pail of milk with my hoof” thing too-so it’s really and truly a hybrid. It’s actually freaking delicious.  It’s weird, and I like it!  The texture is divine. Its smooth and chewy, yet yields to the tooth.  I don’t feel any calcium lactate crystal crunch. it’s just a nice cheddarry chew. You certainly couldn’t fool a goat cheese hater with chèvre noir.  It’s a totally unabashed goat cheese, but it’s so damn good it just might make a convert out of the haters. My only complaint would be that it lacks a little salt-and I realize that I bitch about salt in almost every review: too much salt, or too little salt, is it so hard to get it right?

It’s a great looking Canadian goat cheddar.   Go out and try it and thank me later.