Feb 20, 2015

Physalis, The Phrenchest Phruit: Fote des Bergères


Aah, the physalis -- the Phrenchest phruit you've never heard of. It's the exact size and texture of a firm cherry tomato. It's tangy and acidic, and not much sugarier than a (sweet) cherry tomato either. It's so much like a cherry tomato, in fact, that it's hard to think of it as a fruit (and don't even start with the "but tomatoes are a fruit" argument).

Like a baby fairy (you can tell I've had two little girls in my house for a while), the physalis comes wrapped up in a tight blossom of papery leaves. It crinkles like gift-wrapping when you open it up. The leaves also serve as a nifty little handle, because if you grab the fruit itself, your hand gets messy from a sticky coating.

While one can (and I did) buy a batch at a farmers' market and pop them like expensive snacks, the main purpose of them seems to be to decorate cakes and restaurant dishes. They are an absolutely beautiful late fall and winter fruit. However, I'm the only one in the house who actually enjoys eating them.

THE CHEESE: Fote des Bergères

In the early 2000s, a group of sheep farmers in Limousin decided to revive an ancient recipe for a raw sheeps' milk cheese famous among the shepherds. They did their best and fed it to an old shepherd who declared that it wasn't the right taste at all. On the other hand, he admitted that whatever they had done wrong, the end result was still quite delicious.

So, they took their "faute" (error/mistake) and named it the Fote (a made-up word, pronounced like "faute") des Bergères.

It's a hard tomme, with a thick, aged, brown-and-white moldy crust.

The inside cheese is mostly crumbly and dry with just a hint of creamy once warmed in the mouth. It has a strong gamy taste of sheep, both salty and sweet, with a slight mushroomy edge.


Why Fote des Bergeres with physalis? Simply because the word "fote" seems like it should start with a Ph, and I've spelled it that way half a dozen times in my notes and on my lists till I finally learned. It's phunny that I should make so many mistakes on the word "fote" given that it's a name made up by the cheesemakers because of a "faute" (fault/error) that gave birth to the creation of this new phantastic phromage.


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