June 12, 2020 2 min read
It's not often we get to welcome a new cheese to our counters; less often still are they as beguiling as our current batches of Castillon Frais.
This week's arrival brought with it a host of peculiarities: a distinct lactic twang gives way to hints of freshly pressed grape must and an intruiging celery, fenugreek finish.
Hailing from the Luberon moutains in Provence, Castillon Frais is the more youthful incarnation of a cheese that previously reached us with a pronounced lanolin disposition at around 4-6 weeks old.
The raw-milk for David and Fanette Ladu's recipe comes from their flock of 120 Sarda sheep. Originally a Sardinian breed, the sheep were brought over by David's grandfather after he decided the similarities in the relief and climate of the Luberon foothills would make an apt home from home.
The Ladu's farm makes for an idyllic, eclectic setting. At around 9 each morning David, milks the sheep by hand. a relaxation soundtrack playing all the while in the background. By 12, the sheep head back out to graze on an arid yet rich pasture of grass, Sainfoin (a particularly nutritious perennial legume) and native herbs. David rotates the sheep between several fields to ensure the land has time to recover before future grazing.
The milk then heads straight to the dairy where it is blended with that of the previous night. Fannette - a ceramicist by former trade - heads up the cheese making. To allow the natural development of wild flora, their lactic-set recipe stretches out over 24 hours, keeping additions and interventions to a minimum. Just a couple of drops of rennet are added to whey from the previous day's production to kickstart the make. After the milk has acidified and the curds have formed, they are ladled into jaffa cake sized moulds before aging. At just over 2 weeks old, the cheeses are light, moussy and resiliently fresh.
The Ladus have a not-insubstantial family of 8 to feed and so, post-make, nothing goes to waste. In keeping with their sustainable, low-intervention beliefs, leftover whey will be fed back to their vegetable plot, hens & two enormous pigs as part of a holistic, circular system.