I tend to have a fondness for traditional cheeses.
It is fascinating to trace a cheese to the exact town it originated in, and learn about generations of a family that have lived there and worked to keep the integrity of the cheese alive. The basics of cheese making are still the same, often as they might have been a hundred years ago. Certainly some equipment has been updated, but many people working as cheese makers today would be using similar methods as a cheese maker in the distant past. It is nice to think that we can taste the same amazing flavours in a traditionally made cheese that you might have tasted if you were living in the countryside centuries ago.
All over the world new cheeses are being developed all the time. Many of them are styles that aren’t historically common in an area, like mountain style cheeses from Canada. Why not? Others are developed that are just less commonly made in the past, like a washed rind goat cheese. Again, why not? Sounds like a great idea. Although these are new ideas, new cheese makers and possibly new homes for these products, the methods themselves aren’t necessarily new, so when you see a new development that really does change part of the cheese making process it’s pretty interesting.
One such advancement was made in 1981 by a cheese maker in France. Since 1983, the Fromagerie Guilloteau has used ultrafiltration to process the milk they receive daily from neighbouring farms. After pasteurization, the ultrafiltration takes place, and this removes much of the excess water from the milk and leaves behind a product rich in protein and nutrients. The cheese making then begins and this rich milk is then made into a variety of soft cheeses. Once they are matured and packaged off they go into the marketplace.
When you taste Fromager d’Affinois (sometimes labelled as Le Dauphin in Canada), you can really see that this is a different style of soft cheese. The rind or bloom, is very fine and delicate. Even when the cheese is very runny and ripe the rind of the cheese stays very mild. The paste or interior of the cheese has an amazingly smooth and rich texture. It is double cream, because of the filtration step removing so much of the water from the milk, so that this cheese is much higher in calcium than other soft cheeses.
I find that because of the delicate taste and the lovely rich texture, this is a great complement to other cheeses on a cheese plate. It pairs perfectly with many other styles without overwhelming any of them, and the beautiful lush texture is definitely a crowd pleaser. The other nice thing is that unlike many soft cheeses that have rinds that clash terribly with most wine, Fromager D’Affinois seems to have the perfect subtle flavour that will sidle up to your favourite glass without causing any regret.
In France there are a great variety of cheeses made under the d’Affinois label. In North America we seem to get a nice sampling of all the products they make. Fromager d’Affinois is a simple, rich double cream. Campagnier d’Affinois is a mixed rind soft cheese with just a little more earthy flavour. There is also a sheep’s milk version called Brebicet and a goat version called Florette. All of these cheeses share the same beautiful rich, elegant texture, and lovely fine rind.
This is a favourite in our store and people are very unhappy with me if I order poorly, and run out. Next time you are ready to build a cheese plate try a slice of Fromager d’Affinois and see why all the people love it so much.