April 15, 2008

Crottin de Chavignol Cheese & it’s Wine Friends

posted by Kirstin in Food, Guest Bloggers, Wine

The dear Crottin de Chavignol, which first saw the light of day in the 16th century, was named “animal poop” or “dung” in honor of its similarity in size and shape to French horsey droppings.

That is how you know it’s good. Because, unlike the American dish, “shit on a shingle” that is fortunately served in even rarer instances than its distant cousin, green jello with canned fruit and mayo, people all over the world still eat this cheese.

To make this Crottin, cheesemakers take the whole milk of the famed goats in the area and ladle the smooth liquid into its tiny molds. The milk stays in the mold from twelve to twenty-four hours, where it starts to take it’s “Crottin-like” shape. The wrinkled, rippled surface develops on the cheese after it’s removed from the mold, salted and ripened from 10-12 days in a dry environment.

Fresh or fully mature, le Crottin de Chavignol exists in multiple forms that can soothe the dairy pains of many a particular cheese-eater. At different stages in its life, it seems to morph into entirely different types of cheese. Ranging from white and butter-colored when young to gray or off blue when older, and it’s texture respectively alternating from crumbly and lush to thick and hard enough to employ as a door knocker when one’s knuckles grow weary, le Crottin is a shape shifter.

With bright, herbaceous and lemony flavors, le Crottin can be enjoyed shortly after its creation as a spreadable or melting cheese . It is white or slightly yellow now, and soft and crumbly. One of the favorite ways to eat this Crottin young is warmed over toasted bread in a Chevre Chaud Salad in Parisian bistros. Later, as it matures-
sometimes as soon as a month or so after it arrives in the U.S., it develops a firmer texture that allows the cheese to be grated or sliced. This is the time to Introduce this Crottin “of a certain age” grated over gnocchi, or sliced atop artisan salumi with tarragon in a crusty baguette.

When young, le Crottin screams for a Sancerre, or other bright, fresh Sauvignon Blancs. But at this early stage it really pairs well with anything. As it ages, try it with another wine from the Loire Valley, where the cheese is made. Try it with a Cabernet Franc- the red grape of the region, or with a Chenin Blanc from Vouvray. Another good match is a Grenanche based wine. Fair warning: when young, notre petit Crottin can stand up to a Pinot Noir, but when it ages, it becomes a tad to strong for the delicate grape.

Next time: possibly another adventure in really specific cheese and wine pairing.

Kirstin Jackson Ellis works as a wine bar manager and wine and food consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes about wine and food pairing at Vin de La Table, her luxurious and lighthearted blog.

by oceank8 · April 15, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Waiting to try this cheese! I have always loved cheese but since my recent trip to Sonoma and Napa have a new found passion. Every night I had a cheese plate. Discovered “Vella” cheese and now find myself ordering cheeses online, guess this is another one I can add to the mix.

by Philip · April 16, 2008 at 10:34 am

k8 – where do you buy your cheese online? I’ve used igourmet, but thats it. I’m always impressed by their ‘stay cool’ packaging

by Philip · April 16, 2008 at 12:55 pm

I’m sure i’ve tried Cowgirl Creamery – dont they have a store in that old ferry building in San Fran?

by oceank8 · April 17, 2008 at 7:36 pm

I just google my favorite cheese. My new discovery, as I mentioned, is Vella’s
Pretty expensive online, just need to find friends to share with :)
The ones I tried and loved were the dry aged jack which I use like parmesan and the sharp white cheddar! I have also discovered “Laura Chenel’s Chevre” – pure goat milk cheese, it is also very yummy! Nothing like cutting up a few of these with apple, nuts, “Girl and the Fig” dried fig compote, and a great port! – okay now I’ve gone and made myself hungry!

by Philip · April 18, 2008 at 4:55 pm

I had an amazing blue yesterday called cabrales – beautiful, soft and a touch sweeter, yet while still sharp, than many blues. Its spanish.

by mark · May 7, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Finally got a chance to eat a bit of Crottin (from Sonoma county though — couldn’t find any from France). I crumbled it over a salad… It really complemented the salad and especially the apple I cut up to throw in there as well. Great cheese!

by Philip · July 5, 2008 at 11:57 am

OK, 2 months later and i actually tried some Crottin (de Canada I think). Had it just now, after breakfast, very creamy and so i felt it needed something to counterbalance that. Worked ok with some salt and pepper, but was fantastic with Mango Chutney, which has some tartness to cut through the the creaminess.

by mark · April 15, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Thanks for this tip, Kirstin. I’ll be heading to my local cheese shop to seek this one out soon. Of course a visit to the cheese shop means a visit to the wine store.

by philip · April 15, 2008 at 5:50 pm

I’m suddenly ravenous – I had some great cheese at an event last night. Several i could identify, but there was a round (hocky puck shaped actually) cheese, fairly mild, but with a touch of sweetness, and with the consistency of brie, that I should have asked for the name for. Fantastic!

by Kirstin · April 16, 2008 at 10:58 am

Vella cheese is one of my favs too, and pretty easy to pair with reds. Do you like their dry jack or their mezzo secco better? I can’t decide.
Phillip- there is a goat cheese, sweet and hockey puck shaped that has a bloomy brie-style rind called Redwood Valley Camelia. check it out.
I’ve never ordered cheese online, but I would try Cowgirl Creamery if I did. I get most of the cheeses for the wine bar I manage through them (domestic & imported), and they are very careful to get them to me in perfect condition. Of course, they deliver to us, but I hear that they Fed Ex too. Not cheap, but likely worth it.

by mark · April 18, 2008 at 11:53 am

Okay definitely daydreaming about cheese right now.

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