Let's make a cheese

Let's make a cheese

That morning, we set sail for Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais). Not to talk cod, shrimp or smoked herring, as this northern, maritime destination might suggest. No, we came to talk about fourme d'Ambert, Ossau-Iraty, chaource or valençay, just a stone's throw from an emerald sea. After all, France's leading fishing port is home to one of the most remarkable storytellers of our cheeses. For over thirty years, Philippe Olivier has been combing the countryside, meeting small-scale farmers and artisan cheesemakers to unearth forgotten cheeses and raw-milk nuggets, which he strives to make known and enjoyed beyond their region of production. He also organizes conferences and tastings, and writes a monthly newsletter in which he talks about cows, goats, seasons and ripening, like a griot, passing on the memory of our cheese heritage.

The Olivier family has been collecting, refining and selling cheese for over a century. The grandfather was a grocer-cheesemonger in Rouen, the father set up shop in Dieppe, and Philippe Olivier started out in a former butcher's shop in Boulogne. Today, his son Romain has taken over. If you're passing through rue Thiers (1), let yourself be tempted by its fresh, fragrant and bewitching den, like the entrance to a borie, the stone huts where Provencal peasants sheltered. You'll discover old gris de Lille, fromage de monsieur, ami du Chambertin, crayeux de Roncq, crémet du cap Blanc-Nez and rollot de Picardie. In all, 250 cheeses (including some 50 goat's cheeses) to whet your encyclopedic appetite.

So, to mark National Cheese Day on Saturday, under the aegis of the Fromages de terroirs association, here are a few suggestions from Philippe Olivier for tasting those 365 cheeses that made De Gaulle say that France was an ungovernable country, and Churchill, during the Second World War, that "a country capable of giving the world three hundred cheeses cannot die".

The unique cheese

You can opt for a classic version: a perfectly matured Brie de Meaux will look great on your loved one's birthday dinner table. A fine St. Nectaire may also do just as well alongside a whole Bayonne ham at your eldest daughter's 20th birthday buffet. And to think that as a child, she thought all cheeses were Caprice des dieux.

More elaborate, the unique processed cheese. Take half a Fourme d'Ambert. Remove the marbled inside and macerate for seventy-two hours with half a bottle of Sauternes. Then place back into the fourme. Serve with sliced fresh pears, raisin bread and a glass of sauternes (you didn't whistle the rest of the bottle, did you?).

And now, the recipe that will put guests at your
feet: camembert ripened in calvados. Buy a Camembert. A real, raw-milk, ripened Camembert. Graindorge brand, for example. Scrape off the rind and decorate the top and bottom corners of the cheese. Prick with a fork and drizzle with a tablespoon of calvados. Repeat the operation on the other side of the Camembert, coating it with breadcrumbs before wrapping it in a damp cloth and placing it in a cool place. Serve, per person, one-sixth of Camembert, a tablespoon of slightly acid compote, raisin bread and a glass of Cambremer cider.

What do you base the company's development on?

We are driven by one ambition: to enhance the value of our cheese heritage. That's why, as well as strengthening our expertise as a cheese maturer, we attach great importance to collecting the cheeses we market. Every year, we taste around 200 new cheeses, selecting between two and four. Our criteria are always the same: flavor, producer technical skills and territorial coverage.

Three cheeses

Half of our sales are made to the general public via a network of affiliated or wholly-owned boutiques. A quarter is used to supply restaurants and caterers. The remaining quarter is sold internationally. As early as 1976, my father turned his attention to the UK, which is only 35 kilometers from Boulogne-sur-Mer, and since the early 2000s, we've been focusing on exports. Today, our cheeses can be found on the tables of 17 foreign countries, in Europe, Asia, the Middle East... Most of these sales are the result of wonderful encounters with local chefs.

The cheese platter

Count six cheeses to represent the six main cheese families, choosing a different terroir for each. For example: Valençay from Berry for goat cheeses; Camembert from Normandy for soft cheeses with a bloomy rind; Reblochon from Savoy for pressed cheeses; Comté from Jura for cooked cheeses; Maroilles from Nord for soft cheeses with a washed rind; Roquefort from Rouergue for blue-veined cheeses.

And don't forget," says Philippe Olivier, "that cheeses are at their best when they're made from the milk of cows returning to pasture after wintering. Or milk from the regain period in summer.

Directed by Libération

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National Cheese Day

"A country that can give the world three hundred cheeses cannot die", said Winston Churchill during the Second World War. To which Charles de Gaule retorted: "You can't govern a...

Let's make a cheese

That morning, we set sail for Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais). Not to talk cod, shrimp or smoked herring, as this northern, maritime destination might suggest. No, we came to talk about fourme d'Ambert, Ossau-Iraty,...

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