La chèvrerie D'Amélie
Goat cheese (How Cheesy: cheese course 102)
Note: This article is a follow up to "How Cheesy", written a few months ago. As I received quite a bit of feedback on the subject of cheese, I decided to further delve into the topic:
While in France this past month, we found a goat farm in Faverolles en Berry, in the Centre-Val de Loir region of France. The cheese they make, "Selles-sur-Cher", is a goat's cheese, its name is derived from the commune of Selles-sur-Cher in the Loire-et-Cher department where it was first made, back in the 19th century. The farm we visited, La chèvrerie D'Amélie, is owned by a young couple, Laurence and Thierry Quillere.
Tired of their jobs and in search of a new venture, they left their native Brittany to head for the center of France, an area most famous for its production of goat cheese. With no prior experience, they took agricultural classes to learn everything they could, followed by required internships. They received certifications needed to start their business and bought the farm starting from scratch, including the purchase of all the equipment necessary for cheese production and for growing their own feed. They then sought out the stars of their show: beautiful snow white Saanen goats. They now own 200 in total (137 Does, milk producers, and the remaining 63 Bucks). The couple knew they would face hardships, but the economic strain was the most difficult part for them." We barely made minimum wage", Thierry recalled. "Farms are usually handed down to the next generation, allowing the heirs to gain a head start on land, equipment and livestock". "For us", he confided, "every expenditure had to be accounted for and profits barely trickled in for years". Nonetheless, despite the long hours and rough physical work, they decided to manage the farm without employees. It left the two intimately involved in the rythyms and needs of their charges, helping them in birth to their final days. Goats do not produce for long, 11 years at most. Laurence said: "We became so attached to them, we gave each one a name", but then added: "We stopped because when they died, we were left with such heartache" . Some of the retired ones still have names. "That one over there", Laurence pointed to an older looking buck, "his name is Popeye". "We keep them even after they can no longer serve. We just can't let them go. They are so different from one another, their personalities really give us so much joy..."
Thierry is in charge of the animals, which includes feeding, birthing, caring, trimming hooves, milking and overseeing the food they grow to feed the goats. Laurence is in charge of production: sales and trips to the open air market a few times a week. They keep about a third of the cheese to sell in their farm store or at the open air market. The rest goes to a cheese refiner who in turn, sells the cheese to wholesalers and retailers alike. "Selles-sur-Cher" cheese is made from unpasteurized whole goat milk, it's round shape dates back to the the 19th century. It is hand molded and rolled in wood ash and salt. It can be eaten after the aging process and the formation of a grey-bluish rind. Its lightly salty flavor offers a persistent aftertaste, the central pâte is typical of goats cheese, rigid and heavy at first but moist and softening as it melts in the mouth. This fine cheese also is flavored by the goat's diet of hay, which is grown right in the Cher valley. All these elements give this particular cheese its "appellation" by staying in the region of its namesake and by sticking to the production process.
Thierry and Laurence earned the coveted AOP label (Appellation d’Origine Protégée in French/Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in English) on the cheese they sell.
To note: an AOP classification is based on three main criteria, in a defined geographical zone and strictly monitored by an independent organisation:
The origin of the milk: the milk producers must be identified. They must respect strict rules concerning the hygiene and the feeding of their goats and everything must come from the farm that claims the label. This avoids the uncertainty of milk from unknown sources, for example.
The Quilleres do not have a website for me to post. If you wish to visit the area, here is their contact information:
La Chevrerie D'Amelie, 1 route de Lucay, 36360 Faverolles-en-Berry, France
Phone number: +33 6 86 70 15 10
I hope you will be able to sample this fine cheese, I highly recommend it! Send me your comments and please subscribe to my website!