On our fifth day in Provence, Susan took all of the cooking students to the village of Truinas to visit Madame Fabienne Jullian's goat cheese farm, which is high up in the mountains. We took home six packages of one-day old goat cheeses and had them for lunch with a smooth raspberry coulis dribbled over. It was delicious! At this stage, the cheese is almost like cottage cheese, but with a much milder flavour.
There are 60 nannies and two billies at Mme Jullian's farm. The nannies were overjoyed to receive visitors. If you move your hands over their heads to pet them, they think you're offering food and try to eat it, but if you pet under the chin, they know you are giving affection. At six months old, they start visiting the billy. We saw the billies too, but they were too tired to come say hello.
Mme Jullian makes a fresh raw milk goat cheese that's locally known as Picodon cheese. It's one of many agricultural products that have AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) status.
She pours the milk into these small moulds that have tiny holes and adds a little bit of rennet and salt. Then the little rounds dry in her fridge for two to four weeks.
Some goats in the region live even higher in the mountains and graze on the wild mountain thyme that grows at those altitudes, which gives their milk and its cheeses a special flavour.
I don't think these cheeses make it to Canada, and that's too bad because they are delicious! Susan says that cheeses cured over 60 days are allowed into the United States, but the fresher raw milk cheese like the ones chez Mme Jullian are all too young to make it over.
We saw Picodon cheese everywhere in the supermarkets. Young cheeses, like the day-olds we ate for lunch, can lose a lot of weight during the aging process and develop a rind and a hardened centre. The flavour is so concentrated that it "piques at your dents" (teeth). I preferred the younger versions, but I can see how the aged Picodon could become an aquired taste.