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Jun 17, 2014

Bold Mold, Old Mold: Bûchette de Marhiloux

THE STORY:

What is this fabulous cheese -- with the thick toad-skin crust and the bright green patches?



Well, it's less enticing when you know it's actually the top layer of a jar of grilled peppers, discovered upon the return from (yet another) long weekend on the heels of a long vacation. I am blessed to have a husband who knows me well enough that he actually asks before throwing it out, "Do you want to keep this for any reason?" Why yes, yes I do! I must photograph it, because it goes perfectly with the story I want to write, explaining the differences between this -- old mold -- and the good stuff -- a.k.a bold mold.


 
There are actually 300,000 known types of mold, and counting. And some of them are highly toxic, some are mildly toxic, some are simply bothersome, and some are delicious. So how do you know the difference? The general rule of thumb is, if it wasn't put on their purposely, don't eat it. In terms of adding mold on mold, don't worry, you'll know. Not only does old cheese get furrier, but usually it starts to smell like ammonia. In any event, if it's been lying around too long and you're in doubt, throw it out.
 
The good molds, like Penicillium roqueforti that make so many blue cheeses, are not only good tasting, they're good for you. You are aware, of course, that the life-saving, history-altering medicine penicillin is derived from mold, as discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming. What you may not know is that well before that, people in rural France near Roquefort used to rub their local blue cheese on open wounds as a folk remedy. You can imagine the skeptics of the time watching the proceedings: rolling eyes, "Get a load of that hoodoo..."
 
You know that blue mold that forms on your old bread? In hand made production of Roquefort cheese, that very mold is collected after six weeks from rye and wheat bread then pricked into the cheese to establish the blue veins, so the line between gross-don't-eat-it mold and "yum!" is a fine one.
 
Penicillium camemberti is the mold responsible for -- you guessed it -- Camembert cheese, also the soft, bloomy, white rinds of so many soft cheeses, including cow, sheep, and goat. Mucor is the mold on Saint Nectaire and Tomme de Savoie, and can be credited (or blamed, if you hate it) for the thick, dark, crusty rind.
 
When confronted with bad mold on moldy cheese, you can do one of two things, as dictated by the USDA, the Mayo Clinic, common sense, and my mother's paranoia about food poisoning: if the cheese is hard, or at least semi-hard, cut away the mold and a good couple centimeters farther to be safe (being sure the knife doesn't slice through the mold, so that it doesn't cross-contaminate).


If soft or creamy (yogurt included), you should throw it out, because not only can the mold travel through the porous cheese, but it will make the cheese smell and taste awful anyway.

THE CHEESE: Bûchette de Marhiloux

Buchette de Marhiloux comes to us from the same farm that makes the delicious Tommette de Marilhou. And if you're wondering why I've spelled it Marhiloux in one place and Marilhou in another, it's only because that's how the cheese store spells them. They both come from the same farm, one that makes exquisite goat cheeses, and are aged by Laurent Dubois, one of the best affineurs in the country. So I guess I can forgive them if spelling is just not their thing.
 

The farm has 21 hectares of woods and pastureland for a herd of 40 female and 70 male Massif Central breed goats -- all without any genetic modification, the farmer is quick to point out. They graze in the day and shelter indoors at night, at the Ferme Les Bessonies (also called Ferme Des Bessonies, and Ferme Aux Bessonies. I guess consistency is not their thing, either).


The log form -- bûche or the diminutive bûchette -- is the firmest of their cheeses. It is sold either "in white" to those who can age it properly, or already aged 7-10 days and covered with lovely mold. Being small, they lose their moisture rapidly and therefore must be sold quickly in small batches. That, plus the fact that it's farmhouse production, means you should grab it when you see it.

THE CONNECTION:


This cheese has green, black, orange, yellow, and/or white mold with geotricum (toad-skin) wrinkles that, frankly, would be terrifying on any food product other than cheese. The end of a log looks remarkably like our moldy red pepper jar. Instead, it's delicious, and I lap it up. It's mold gold, if truth be told.
 

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