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May 13, 2014

Practical Lactic Didactic: Aiguebelette

THE STORY:

Cheeses are often described as "lactic", and I figured it was about time to dig into that -- ideally on a hunk of fresh bread.


The term actually refers to lactic acid bacteria, which have a high tolerance to acidity (low pH) and can therefore triumph over other kinds of bacteria when something is fermenting -- say, milk. They are very important for food production and, specifically, play a big part in thickening and developing the molds in goat cheeses in particular.

Here are some cheeses that famously rely on lactic acid bacteria in the manufacturing process: Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine, Crottin Chavignol, Valençay, and Chabichou. There are so many others, however; in fact, a vast majority of the goat cheeses.

  

Whereas many cow cheeses use rennet to form curds and solidify, many goat cheeses rely on lactic fermentation to thicken up. It leads to a creamy texture, though that can harden and crunch up over time. And it also leads to a very pure taste of cream shining through that tasters will often describe as "lactic".

Sometimes, rennet is used anyway, in tiny amounts, before the curds can be poured into their forms for the draining process. This helps keep the cream from separating, though this is more important in the few cow cheeses that rely (mostly) on lactic acid as goat milk doesn't separate as easily. Example of cow cheese using lactic acid are Chaource, St. Marcellin, and Neufchâtel, all of which you will notice are creamy, as opposed to solid (and St. Marcellin even originally was made from goat's milk).

 

THE CHEESE: Aiguebelette

Aiguebelette -- sometimes called Cabris d'Aiguebelette -- is a raw milk goat's cheese made near Lake Aiguebelette in Savoie, in the Alps region. It has a creamy, lactic taste, with a mild goat flavor. It's not a very common cheese, perhaps because it's a goat's cheese in the middle of cow country, but you can find it occasionally at elite shops in Paris; I find them at the Quatrehomme and Laurent Dubois fromageries.


When the disk is fat, the texture is firm on the outside and creamy on the inside. It's what cream cheese wishes it could be. The thinner versions I find are a little wetter, but (as always) it's impossible to tell whether that's because thin ones will always be more on the wet-creamy-oozy side, or that just happens to be the case with the samples I taste.


THE CONNECTION:

Simple: Aiguebelette is a lovely, lactic goat cheese.

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