Chip off the Old (Cheese) Block

 Remembrance Sunday:

a day when, with so many others, we pause to reflect with gratitude the Few to whom so many, owe so much (albeit that a single life lost in combat, is one life too many).  And for Tony & I, also an opportunity to think of those friends of ours whom we’ve lost throughout the passage of the years in military service; all too many, I’m afraid.  As I ploughed on with my business card design & a myriad of other paperwork, I watched the London Cenotaph Service on TV, the silence of the fleeting seconds until the echoing boom of the twenty-one gun salute & the playing of the Last Post pouring many emotional memories through my mind. 

It was a windy but thankfully dry day, the leaves ripped from the trees & the ridge of the hill on the other side of the valley, exposed starkly against the sky for the first time since the spring.  Drifts of rich brown beech leaves crackled underfoot & rustled in the shivering wind, a rich seam of assorted funghi at the foot of the trees’ massive, gnarled roots amongst the scattered shells of beechmast: a feast of Slippery Jacks, Wood Blewits & Hedgehog mushrooms.

Tony kept warm with some energetic chopping of firewood, in hopeful anticipation of a cold, dry Winter. He cut up an entire bay’s worth of well-seasoned oak logs in the old cow byres, forced for much of the time to use his chainsaw as the wood was so dense.  Meanwhile I cleaned the woodburners in preparation to light the season’s fires, the plummeting temperature giving realisation that all too soon even Autumn will be over.

I worked on some Welsh revision & decided to have a go at a different type of cheese based on a Crottin de Chavignol recipe.  Here’s the recipe, for those of you who fancy having a go yourselves…..


This is a cheese with a soft, lactic body & involves pre-draining of the curds prior to mould filling.  Originating from the Loire Valley region of France it is a traditional, unpateurized farmhouse cheese made from goat’s milk.  From an area abundant in vineyards,  goats were kept as the “pauper’s cow” in the poorer wine-growing areas where the milk the agricultural artisans obtained was insufficient to make larger cheeses.  A stout, rustic chevre, it generally weighs around 60-100g & is of stocky, cylindrical-shape.  It sports a natural, slightly wrinkled rind which in the young cheese is a pale ivory with a slight smattering of white & blue moulds.  At about a week old the cheese should have a gentle, yeasty taste with a moist texture, with more softening of the interior over the next few days giving a nuttier, more full-bodied flavour.  By the time the cheese has matured to three weeks of age, the texture is more dense & creamy with a fruity tinge to the taste.  At this age the flavour intensifies when the cheese is grilled, forming the basis of a delicious salad served throughout France.  Allowed further maturation the rind becomes covered with a distinct blue & grey mould, which draws out the internal moisture & gives the chevre an even more fruity, bitter taste.  The result of this dessication is a small, solid dark-grey disc; hence the name ‘crottin de chavignol’ which literally means ‘horse droppings’ (charming).  There is a wide variety of crottins to be found; including the more unusual, meaty répassees which are ripened for up to three months in earthenware pots.  Robust & delicious – but not for the faint-hearted!

To make this cheese I utilise my little Kochstar vat although I find I don’t need to use the heating control, as the ‘cheeseroom’ (aka the kitchen!) is generally at the correct ambient temperature to make it successfully.  However, later in the winter I may tweak the vat’s thermostat a little if the room temperature looks like dropping below 20°C.

INGREDIENTS & COAGULATION:  Fill the vat with 20 litres of unpasteurized whole goats’ milk.  CaC1², if used is added at the rate of 4mls/20 ltrs.  Adjust the temperature of the milk, while stirring to 22-24°C (room temperature of 20-22°C).  Recommended starter culture (if used; I’ve found that some recipes do not call for starter) is a pinch of  MM100 Ezal DVI (each sachet inoculates up to 400 litres of milk so use sparingly, seal the opened sachet with tape, then place it in a plastic bag before returning it to the freezer).  Stir for 5 minutes & leave for 30 minutes. Rennet is then added at 2ml/20ltrs, diluted 5x in boiled & cooled water & stirred in for 2 minutes.  Leave the vat to ripen for 18-30 hours (as a general guide the process takes around 24 hours).  If you have a titration kit, coagulation has been correctly achieved when the acidity of the whey has reached 0.50%.

PRE-DRAINING:  Either drain the curds in a cloth bag over a bucket, or on a cloth spread onto a draining table with the ambient temperature of the cheeseroom mantained at 20-22°C.  Pre-drain the curds for between 6 & 24 hours, being careful to ensure the curds are still moist & not over-drained; as the resultant body of the cheese will otherwise be full of holes if the curds are unable to knit together effectively in the moulds.

MOULD FILLING/DRAINING/DÉMOULAGE:  Place the pre-drained curds into individual moulds, maintaining the ambient cheeseroom temperature at 20-22°C & draining for approximately a further 24 hours.  The cheeses should be turned over at mid-point during draining.  Once drained, the cheeses should be gently & carefully removed from the moulds.

SALTING:  Salt with dry (table) salt at 1-2% of the overall cheese weight, covering the external surfaces of the cheese.

DRYING:  Place the cheeses in a well-ventilated drying room for 1-4 days, at a temperature of 16°C.  Drying must be slow otherwise the cheeses will become too dry, causing potential problems with later ripening. 

AFFINAGE:  Ripening should take place in a ‘cave’ (a sealed box will do!) for 2-4 weeks at a temperature of 10-12°C with a relative humidity of 90%.

STORAGE:  The resultant cheese should have a full body with no holes, a fine texture & slightly friable body.  The rind should be dry & pale yellow in colour, with blue & white moulds on the surface. 

I’ll give regular progress reports, over the coming days….!   



About LittleFfarm Dairy

The LittleFfarm Dairy Team: Jo - Goat farmer & Gelatiere Artigianale, plus General Dogsbody; Tony - Airline Pilot & part-time Herd Manager, Product Taster, Accounts Secretary, Handyman etc!
This entry was posted in Cheese, Dairy, Diary, Food, Fruit & Veg, Life, Nature, November 2007, Recipes, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Chip off the Old (Cheese) Block

  1. Aebleskiver says:

    How interesting that you both predrain 24 hours and then drain another 24 hours in the molds. Does that negatively affect the texture of the cheese for you, as Le Jaouen always said? And draining for a total of 48 hours—doesn’t that make for a very dry cheese to age? Or are you using high solids milk?

    And no penicillin candidum?

    I love hearing about how other people in other places do these things, and how they’ve come to make the choices they have. Thanks for the chance to look inside your operation!

  2. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    Hi there, & ‘Croeso’ –

    thanks for the interest. Where are you from, by the way? As you say, it’s fascinating to learn the methods used by people in diverse places; & from that I gather you’re not UK based.

    As this is the first time I’ve made this cheese (roughly following Le Jaouen’s recipe, but with some slight ‘tweaks’ after discussions with a fellow cheesemaker in Sheffield who already makes it successfully) I too would’ve thought it would make a very dry cheese.

    However as I mention regarding the pre-egouttage, you really do have to be careful not to over-drain the curd during the initial stages. We are also lucky with the quality of our milk; although I would imagine that using the Anglo Nubian breed would act as a distinct improver for this particular chevre variety.

    Regarding penicillium, it can be added either by directly inoculating the vat during the initial stages or sprayed on at the salting stage; however by no means all Crottin-type cheeses are inoculated; the richness of the natural rind is a feature of this lovely cheese.

    Glad you’re enjoying the site; do keep reading – as this is my virgin attempt at this cheese type, it may yet turn out to be a disaster – & if it does all start to go wrong, it’s great to get feedback from others who’ve been there & may be able to offer advice to get the process back on track.

  3. Aebleskiver says:

    No, not UK based (except in spirit). USA, I’m afraid, but someone who likes talking cheesemaking better than anything.

    It’s interesting that you mention Anglo-Nubians, because that’s the breed I’ve worked with for donkey years. And as I think on it, I suppose there would be a point in late lactation (when the BF and milk solids were way up) that my chevre curd would have been stodgy enough to predrain so long, but I’m surprised that your Togg milk would do that.

    I always used to add a pinch of p.candidum powder to the milk before renneting—it was an economic thing since I didn’t use enough to justify mixing up a spray bottle full—but it seemed to make the mold layer too thick for the best cheese. Some commerical cheesemaking friends told me spraying the way to fix that. I suspect they’re right.

    I always added mold powder, though, for although the French farmstead cheesemakers I’ve read about always trusted to their skill to produce a curd that invited the right molds, my art hasn’t reached that level yet. Maybe someday.

    I haven’t had a chance to read your whole blog, so I’m not really up to speed on your plans. Are you still planning a cheese operation? What kinds of cheese will you produce and what’s your market like?

  4. nora says:

    I’m curious about the aging in a sealed box – what are you using? Tupperware plastic or cardboard? Cardboard makes more sense right, for a little air flow? Thanks again for the great writings- your energy is inspiring, not to mention the cheese recipes. PS to Aebleskiver – You’re not, by chance, near San Francisco are you? I’m trying to find someone to share cheese-making supplies with since I can’t get through my bottles of P. Candidum, rennet, etc before they expire either. The curse of tiny-scale home production, I guess.

  5. Aebleskiver says:

    Oh, Nora, I *wish*, but no, I’m nowhere near SF. I’m in a midatlantic state and don’t think that could work for sharing supplies. I suspect there are tons of budding cheesemakers in your neck of the woods, though, so keep on looking. Something may turn up.

    And, you know, I’ve had great luck keeping mold powders and starter DVIs in the freezer tightly wrapped for over a year…. I don’t know how much cheese you make, but it may be a help. Rennet’s a different problem, but if you buy the smallest bottle of liquid rennet, and refrigerate it, it will also last a year.

    I missed the part in Jo’s recipe about aging in a sealed plastic box, and you’re right—that won’t work without some sort of ventilation. In the US you can buy plastic boxes with little vent holes already in them that some folks use. Myself, I always used the ventless plastic boxes for aging, but made it a point to open them at least one a day and allow some air movement to reach the cheese. It needs to breathe, as you so rightly point out, but a cardboard box won’t keep the humidity up high enough in a self defrosting fridge. Something about the defrosting mechanism sucks moisture out of the air of a fridge like nothing else. You need something relatively moisture tight, but with air movement.

    Like a cave….but you can get by with plastic boxes if you air the cheese daily (or more when it’s very fresh.)

  6. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    Hi folks-

    by the way Nora, loved your homage to the humble onion – & what a great recipe! I’m having a veggie friend over to lunch next weekend & will definitely have a go at that for her (just gotta be brave with the melon baller…!).

    The box I use for small-scale ripening (blues, bries etc) is a sort of tupperware-type thing; as has been said, cardboard would just leach any moisture straight out of your cheeses. However the great thing about this box (which was recommended to me by my cheesemaking instructor, Chris Ashby) is that it has a small, slatted plastic ‘shelf’ inide, below which you can put a little water to control the humidity. It certainly does the trick & has the added advantage of stopping anything affecting other chese types you may be working on at the same time.

    And you do indeed have to ensure the cheese has air movement, & is turned regularly; otherwise I’ve found they can go slimy (euch).

    In answer to the (other) question above we are, absolutely, planning to do cheese; however I’ll start off with a simple fresh lactic chevre for the Summer market & work on something a bit more robust for the Winter, when I’ll concentrate more on cheese anyway. But as there’s only me to do the practical stuff at the moment I have to be careful not to spread myself too thinly!

    The market for cheese & indeed quality food generally, is very good here & improving all the time: Wales is getting very well-known for gourmet produce & is becoming a bit of a gastro-food paradise in all sorts of ways. We’re personally very lucky to be located between the majestic Prescelli Mountains & the beautiful Cardiganshire coast; so there’s a fair bit of diverse tourist traffic as well as the wonderful support we get from local people – who thankfully, really do believe in buying from local farmers, shops & markets rather than the ‘big guns’.

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