In France, slightly aged goat cheese is called fromage de chèvre crémeux, and depending on where these small goat cheese rounds are produced they go by a different names. For example, the Rhône-Alpes region is known for Saint-Marcellin, the Languedoc-Roussillon region is known for Pélardon and the Rhône river region for Picodon. These cheeses are all aged for about a week to two weeks, allowing a wrinkly, ivory crust to form on the outside and a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture to develop on the inside. They taste rich, nutty, slightly salty and are extremely odorous!
How to Make Aged Goat Cheese, Fromage de Chèvre Crémeux
To make this kind of goat cheese you follow the same steps to make fresh goat cheese as described in the post How to Make Chèvre Frais: acidification, coagulation, shaping, draining, turning and demolding. At the end however, three extra steps are added: salting, drying and aging.
SALTING: Immediately after the little fresh cheese rounds are popped out of their molds and placed on an elevated rack, they are dusted with a thin layer of pure sea salt and left to rest and continue draining whey. After about 8 hours (usually in the evening) they are flipped and salted on the other side.
DRYING AND AGING: The cheese rounds will continue to drip liquid for a couple of days and will reduce significantly in size. From this point forward the cheeses should be carefully flipped once a day and left to age for a week to produce a creamy cheese, and for two weeks to produce a dryer cheese.
There are a couple of tricks to ensure that an even white crust forms on the outside of the cheese. The first is to never let drying cheeses touch. There should always be a little bit of space between each cheese round. The white crust that forms is a particular type of mold called geotrichum candidum. In the beginning of the cheese-making season there are few spores of this mold in the air, so Carole purchases packages of this mold, dilutes it in water and quickly sprays it onto the cheese. She does this the first few weeks of cheese-making to increase the amount of this mold spore in the cheese-making room. Later in the season the white crust will form quickly and on its own.
Once a nice crust forms around the cheese they are placed in a drying room. This room has all moisture sucked out of it mechanically, causing the white crust to harden a little and seal in any remaining moisture left in the cheese. This will give the cheese its creamy texture! The cheese is left in the drying room for just a few hours, and then is transferred to the cave. Every good cheese-maker has a cave for the affinage of the cheese, and they pride themselves on this aging process. Even if customers are willing to buy her cheese, Carole will not sell it until it is at the perfect, ripe age, ensuring full flavor and quality.
There are infinite varieties of goat cheese. The flavor and texture changes based on the shape, size, how much it is flipped, how long it is aged and what extra ingredients are added. For example, one of my favorites was called Lauze. It was molded into a thin square, painted with fine vegetable ash, and aged for 10 days. The result: a cheese that once cut oozed onto your plate, begging you to eat it!
I could clearly go on and on about cheese; it’s fascinating! But alas, my cheese-making days at Roquecave have come to an end. I left the farm about a week ago and met up with my family to travel together through Southwestern France. I’m being completely spoiled! We stay in hotels, eat out at restaurants and visit castles all day! The reason I’ve been able to travel all around the world for the past two years is because I economize and hardly ever grant myself these luxuries. It’s a different kind of travel, and I am so grateful to my family to get to experience them both!