Friday, July 27, 2012

Rocamadour Goat’s Cheese, AOP and the Medieval city of Rocamadour.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman

The Medieval City of Rocamadour.
Rocamadour AOP  is a 45% fat goat’s milk cheese, made with non-pasteurized milk. The cheese is creamy, and when young is mild, and then it may well be in your salad, or part of another dish.  Older and mature Rocamadour AOP cheeses, with their stronger flavor, will be on the cheese board.  If you are considering taking one home, you will not be paying overweight, all Rocamadour AOP cheeses are small round cheeses weighing about 40 grams (1.40 ounces) each. For more information on buying French cheeses and taking the home see the post on: Buying Cheese in France.

Farm-made Rocamadour Cheeses.
Photograph courtesy of Lafromagerie.
In local fromageries, cheese shops, you may see two types of this cheese, a Rocamadour Artisanal and a Rocamadour Fermier. The first is made in communal dairies; the second is made by the farmer on his or her farm where the goats are milked.  Local cheese shops will stock young cheeses just two-weeks old, along with other cheeses that have been aged for up to one year. This cheese is available all over France; however, the numbers of differently aged cheeses will be more limited the further you are from Rocamadour.

Rocamadour cheeses maturing.
Photograph courtesy of the Syndicat des Producteurs de Fromages Rocamadour.
Rocamadour AOP is mainly produced in the département of Lot in the Midi-Pyrenees, Languedoc- Roussillon.   Additionally, certain farms in the départements of Tarn, Aveyron, and Garonne in the same région also produce the cheese along with a few farms in the départements of Corrèze and the Dordogne in the newly expanded region of Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes. You can take a map of the Route de Rocamadour, the Rocamadour road from the Tourist Information office and spend an enjoyable day touring, and tasting Rocamadour and other local cheeses. Restaurants are carefully spread out along the route.

The Route de Rocamadour.
Rocamadour was a medieval city, in today’s terms it is a village. Today,  Rocamadour has some seven hundred permanent inhabitants.  French Medieval cities rarely had more than 3,000 citizens, with under 1,000; Paris excluded. Since the 10th century, or possibly earlier, Rocamadour has been a place of pilgrimage who come to pray to the Notre Dame de Rocamadour.

The Medieval City  of Rocamadour from above.
Photograph courtesy of Neil Wilkie.
Rocamadour, of course, has a cheese festival, their Fête des Fromages; it is held on Whit Sunday, that’s 48 days after Easter and it celebrates French farm-made cheese from the South of France, and not just their own. In accordance with its position as a place of pilgrimage, the fete begins with a mass and blessing of the local sheep and goats. 

See the French language website  of the Rocamadour Fete de Fromage. The site is easily understood with the Google and Bing translate apps.

There is also a farmers' market, and all the food and cheese you see, you may buy. Rocamadour is in the département of Lot in the Midi-Pyrénées and the exact date of their Fete changes every year in coordination with Easter. Easter falls between the 22nd of March and the 25th April, so you will need to check the dates on the web, or with the English language website of the Rocamadour Tourist Information Office

Rocamadour is a wonderful place for those with gastronomic interests at any time of the year. The area is part of the ancient province of Quercy and that means, you may enjoy, apart from many other kinds of cheese, excellent Quercy lamb, duck, melons and much more. Then come the AOC Coteaux du Quercy wines along with the enjoyable and very inexpensive local Vin des Côtes du Lot IGP wines; these include whites,  roses, and reds. Then just 62 km (39 miles) away is the town of Cahors with its wonderful, and famous, red Cahors AOP wine.

The Statue of the Black Virgin.
Whatever time of the year you visit Rocamadour there will be pilgrims from all over France and beyond.   Our Lady of Rocamadour, the Vierge Noire, the black virgin, has become even more popular for pilgrims since the reputed burial site of St Amadour was discovered in Rocamadour.  When visiting Rocamadour today's visitors, and pilgrims will be pleased to know that one of  the old traditions has changed. You are no longer required to walk up the 216 steps to the shrine of the black virgin on your knees!  Today you can now walk up and down and no one will say a thing. Maybe next year there will be a cable car?

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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