16 December 2018

Sunrise, and a cheese discovery

It's fully 10 degrees Celsius warmer this morning than it was yesterday morning at the same time. That's a difference of nearly 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold snap lasted only a few days, and now we're getting back to more normal temperatures. Here's what yesterday's sunrise looked like.

Right after the sun came up behind the trees on our neighbors' property, the sky clouded over and it started raining lightly. It was just warm enough for the precipitation to be rain instead of snow, but for at least a few minutes it was freezing rain. It kept getting warmer toward noontime, so it ended up wet, not icy, outside.

Meanwhile, I discovered a new cheese this past week. I found it at SuperU, in a refrigerated cabinet where the store usually displays goat cheeses more than any other variety — local ones. I admit that when I bought this cheese, I assumed it was made from goat's milk, but when I examined the label at home I learned that it's a cow's milk cheese. It was the coating of wood ash that tricked me, because local the goat cheeses are often ash-covered.

The cheese is called an Olivet cendrécendres means ashes in French. Olivet is an old town that is nowadays a south suburb of the city of Orléans, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Saint-Aignan. The cheese is named for Olivet because it used to be made there, but I think the town's cheese business died out as the area developed. Olivet cheese, which resembles Camembert except for the ash coating, is apparently made in Normandy and also here in the Cher river valley, over near Selles-sur-Cher, in the town called La Vernelle. Or at least it has been aged or affiné there, as best I can tell by reading the label.

Why are cheeses covered with wood ash? It is partly to give them a smoky flavor, I think, but it used to also be a way to keep the individual cheeses from sticking together when they were being ripened on trays or shelves in cellars, one touching another. Another advantage of covering the cheeses with wood ash, which in Olivet was traditionally the ash left behind when grape-vine trimmings were burned, was that the ash kept insects away as the cheeses aged. Anyway, the cheese is delicious, and I'll buy it again if I see it again. Or maybe I'll drive over to La Vernelle and stop in at the Fromagerie P. Jacquin — I've driven by it many times but never gone in. The web site says Jaquin does make an Olivet Cendré, as well as Olivet cheeses aged in hay or coated with black pepper. I drive through La Vernelle on the way to the big Valençay wine co-op, where I like to go for wine once in a while.


  1. Discovering a new delicious cheese is something to make a day a bit special. I hope you can see it more often.
    That sunrise was such a beautiful color!

  2. Never heard of that cheese. But in a country that is said to have as many cheeses as there are days in the year, is that surprising? I'll take you word for its taste.

  3. I pulled out my Larousse book Les Fromages (1973) and there it is: Olivet Cendré et Olivet Bleu. I think you can see from the pictures that the cheese is very appetizing; no need to believe me just on my word.

  4. The producer Jaquin is clearly very large, as you often see their cheeses in the US. Unfortunately, due to legal restrictions, what they send over here are mediocre versions of the real AOP cheeses. I see they make 4 of my favorite cheeses in the world: Selles-sur-Cher, Valencay, St.-Maure-de-Touraine, and Pouligny St. Pierre; all AOP cheeses, and therefore I believe all raw milk. But what we get here are pasteurized, non-AOP versions, which are very inferior. So when we visit France, we eat the real thing throughout our trip.

    1. Jacquin's turnover last year was more than 16 million euros. I think that French cheeses often don't travel very well. Maybe they sit on the shelves too long, or in warehouses, because the sales volume is low. Or maybe French cheesemakers believe that Americans don't like strong cheeses so send them over immature. I think you're right about the raw milk goat cheeses, but at least in Selles-sur-Cher I think cheesemakers can freeze milk during high production seasons and then thaw it and make cheese at other times of year.

    2. Shipping times and maturity might be part of it, but a lot of it is just the raw milk issue. Over the years, a number of raw milk cheeses that used to be available in the US could no longer be sold here. I don't know if t was a change in regulations, or simply a change in enforcement. In any event, suddenly pasteurized, inferior substitutes started to be made, with different names, since the AOP names required the cheese be raw milk. It didn't affect "mountain" cheeses, like those from the Jura, Savoie, and the Basque region, since they are aged over 90 days anyway. But it did affect cheeses like the great goat cheeses from the Loire.

  5. A real find although it may have been there all along and you just now found it. Such is life. The ashes are beautiful.


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