Saturday, December 13, 2014

Crottin de Chavignol AOP. One of France’s outstanding goats’ milk cheeses.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Different ages of Crottin de Chavignol.
Photograph courtesy of Sunfox.
A creamy, 45% fat, goats’ milk, cheese, made with non-pasteurized milk. The Crottin de Chavignol  is sold with varying degrees of maturity, the minimum is ten days. Ten days will produce a mild flavored cheese and then it may be served warm in salads. The young cheese has a  white rind and as the cheese matures, the rind takes on a bluish tinge.   The smallest of these cheeses weigh just 60 grams and are about 5cm (2”) wide by 2.5 cms high (1”)  (Crottin de Chavignol is pronounced krotan de chavinol)

The goats of Chavignol.
Photograph courtesy of etnobofin
 A Maître Fromager, a cheese master, who was also the owner of an excellent cheese store told me that the blue rind is the first sign of a strong and mature cheese. When the rind begins to turn blue it will be about three months old. Then the cheese will be sharper and slightly crumbly and  that is when it should be purchased to take home or on a restaurant's cheese trolley.  A good fromagerie, a specialist cheese store, may offer good customers a sliver of this cheese at two or three stages of maturity and point out the different ages of each.

The village of Chavignol.
Photograph courtesy of epeigne37.
The cheese may be on the menu:

Salade de Crottin de Chavignol, (Salade Verte, Crottin Chaud, Tomate, Magret Fumé). A Crottin de Chavignol salad. A green salad, warm goat’s cheese, tomato, smoked duck breast.
Three ages of a Crottin de Chavignol.
Photograph courtesy of   David Sugden
La Tarte au Crottin de Chavignol – A cheese tart made using the Crottin de Chavignol.
Le Burger au Crottin de Chavignol – A cheese burger made with the Crottin de Chavignol.
Crottin de Chavignol Chaud sur  Pain Poilâne Toasté. Crottin de Chavignol served on toasted Polar bread also called Swedish bread or Nordic bread. This is the traditional a rye flour flat bread with dimples
Crottin de Chavignol sur  Toast au Miel d'Acacia et Pignons de Pin. Crottin de Chavignol served on toast with Accacia honey and pine nuts.

The village of Chavignol
The village of Chavignol  gave the cheese its name and remains a small and beautiful village in the département of Cher in the région of the Centre. The department of Cher is part of the old province of Berry in  the Loire valley and home to many famous wines and cheeses.  Berry has five excellent goat’s and cow’s milk cheeses including the Crottin de Chavignol AOP; there is the Valençay AOP; the Pouligny Saint Pierre AOP;  the Selles sur Cher, AOP, and the  Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine AOP.  The village of Chavignol is just down the road, 5 km ( 3 miles) from the small town of Sancerre so famous for its Sancerre wines 
The town of Sancerre.
Photograph courtesy of etnobofin.
The Fete du Crottin de Chavignol, the Chavignol cheese fair, is held on the first Sunday in May.  Chavignol uses its position very well and the fair is set in between the village and the neighboring  town of Sancerre in the caves de la Mignonne.  Even if you missed the Fete du Crottin de Chavignol the town of Sancerre has about  ten  fêtes, itself.  The fairs are spread out over weekends between April and August  and celebrate  local wines and cheeses and other local produce. One fete that should not be missed celebrates Sancerre wines and oysters.
Most of the Chavignol cheese is produced in the immediate vicinity of the village. However, for historical reasons some of the cheese is made just over the border in the neighboring departments of Loiret and Nièvre in Bourgogne, Burgundy.
The Tourist Information Office for Sancerre and Chavignol has an English language website:
Getting to Chavignol and Sancerre
Bourges, the old capital of  the historical Province of Berry is now the capital of the department of Cher. From Bourges, itself a beautiful and very interesting city, to Chavignol or Sancerre  it is just 46km  (29 miles). It takes less than one hour by car or bus from Bourges; however, avoid the train  which is indirect and takes over three hours with changes.
The meaning of crottin
The word crottin is part of the name of many small goats’ cheeses.  The rather unfortunate translation of this word into English is a little piece of animal dung!  Do not worry; the small goats’ cheeses with crottin as part of their name are mostly excellent.  A few hundred years ago, when the local farmers were handing out the names for tiny cheeses they did not have a public relations expert at hand.  They looked at the cheeses size and playfully associated the shapes with names that they knew. Who expected these cheeses to be sold around the world and become part of the cheese course in three star Michelin restaurants?

The Wines of Sancerre.
Photograph courtesy of The Wine Maestro.
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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