March and the onset of Spring marked the return of several seasonal' goats cheese to our counters. This year's Petit Blaja have made their way back a little later.
As something of a nomadic cheese, Petit Blaja started life in Villaroger in the Tarentaise region of Haute Savoie. After responding to a local advert Gabriel and Soizic Cattenoz took on the farm and 70 year old recipe of a cheese that may otherwise have ceased production. After several years working the farm they'd inherited, Gabriel and Soizic made the not insignificant decision to transport their entire herd of Alpine and Saanen over 600km to the hotter, drier climate of the Haute-Garonne department in the Midi-Pyrénées.
Though the pasture changed, the standout acidity and extraordinary structure of the cheese remained. This stems from an unusual recipe: at least two different batches of lactic-set curds that have been drained and matured over several days are folded together in what is essentially a dough mixer. These are left to drain in moulds, each lined with gingham fabric and other off cuts. Aside from the lack of soggy weather and tea breaks, the process has striking parallels to the production of the indomitable Kirkham's Lancashire in the UK.
Unlike most lactic goats cheeses, Petit Blaja can be matured for three months or more with the rinds changing from a pastel yellow colour, through orangey reds and browns to almost black. Where the cheese starts off fluffy, tart and citric in its early weeks, it progresses to a buttery, creamy breakdown around the edges that contains the first hints of animal. As it dries, the prominent acidity makes way for a breadth of nuttier, vegetal flavours with a chalky, vineyard-esque earthiness at its centre.
Our most recent arrival of Petit Blaja leans towards the former and was noted for its "bright, electric, neon brilliance" by our tasting team. They'll be available online and across our retail sites this week.
Welcome to the return of Mons Cheesemongers' retail mailer.
As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, we are seeing a seismic shift in Europe's dairy industry. Farmers, producers and cheesemongers alike are all adjusting to a changing foodscape.
Each week, our mailer will focus on a particular cheese and producer. By keeping you up to date with news from across our retail sites, and the efforts of the producers we work with, we hope that these weekly mailers offer important information and escapism in equal parts.