In the 19th century, peddlers began to exchange their goods for farm eggs, butter and goat’s cheese, which they then sold in the towns. To improve them, the cheeses are matured in ripening rooms.
Soon, and particularly in the Center and Poitou-Charentes, goat milk producers came together in cooperatives. From that time on, specialties are now made from pasteurized milk.
A majority of women are at the source of this new economy. Indeed, they are the ones who sell horses and cheeses to then buy fabrics and varied and essential foodstuffs.
Five steps for a single production
Whether dairy or farmer, the method cannot vary. Milk can follow two channels. Either it is used raw, or it is used pasteurized, that is to say heated to 74° for 30 seconds. Brought back to a temperature of 18-19°C, the milk is then added with lactic ferments. The added rennet allows slow coagulation, turning the milk from a liquid state to a solid curd state. The latter is drained through a cloth. The serum, or whey, which flows from it does not enter into the manufacture of cheese.
At this stage, the cheese will take its final shape according to the molds in which it will be poured. Whether in a cork, in a cylinder, in a pyramid, in a log… The cheese will be poured with a ladle, if it is made in the traditional way. The molding is carried out in small authorized containers of various shapes, called cheese strainers. Draining ensues. It lasts 24 hours and allows the residues of whey to evacuate. This operation is carried out in a cool, dry place and plays a major role in the preservation quality of the cheese.
Salting and refining
In principle, it is on the molded cheeses that the salting takes place. Sometimes the curd may be salted when the milk is stirred. If it enhances the taste of cheese, salt is also the essential element that blocks the proliferation of micro-organisms. To give some of them their beautiful ashy appearance, a fine powder of charcoal ash, most often obtained from oak, is sprinkled. Here, the cheese is ready to be eaten fresh!
If we wish to continue its maturation, we will then speak of refining. The fresh cheeses will be placed on shelves, in a cool place where the temperature is maintained at 10-11° with a humidity level of 80%. This cave is called the hâloir. They regularly turn the cheeses by hand. The curd is transformed into paste and is then born a crust of white, yellow or brown color. The refiner will be able to appreciate its maturation just by touching it…