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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Picodon AOP Goat’s Cheese. The First Goat's Cheese to be Awarded an AOC, That Was in 1983!

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Welcome to the world of Picodon
The Picodon AOP cheese is also called the Picodon de la Drome AOP or Picodon d’Ardèche AOP.  (Nearly all of this cheese is produced in the department of Drome in the Auvergne and in the department of Ardeche in the Rhone Alps).  The cheese is a  45% fat, lightly spicy to very spicy goats' milk cheese made with non-pasteurized milk.  The spiciness depends on the cheese's maturity. This is one of the best of France’s goats’ cheeses, and it was the first goats’ cheese to receive a French AOC (now an AOP) and that was in 1983. The cheese’s origins; however, date back to the 14th or 15th century.  The cheese is made in discs that weigh 100 grams (3.5 ounces) with some smaller cheeses weighing just 45 grams (1 ½ ounces). N.B. Some of the larger dairies now produce cheeses made with pasteurized milk.

Picodon AOC/AOP
Photograph courtesy of george34
The classic Picodon AOP has a white or bluish rind and is aged for just two weeks. These young cheeses are likely to be in your salad, mixed with olive oil and herbs as a spread, cooked in pastries, prepared as a Cream of Picodon Sauce or part of another recipe.
The meaning of Picodon.
More mature Picodon AOC cheeses will have been aged for at least 30 days and come with a white or ivory rind; the rind is edible.  These cheeses are usually called the Dieulefit Picodon AOP, and they are considered a step up from the classic Picodon AOP and they have a bite that can surprise the uninitiated. The citizens of Ardèche and Drôme, and others in the region of the Rhône–Alps will not be surprised that Picodon AOP is a spicy cheese. Nearly all the long-time residents speak or understand Occitan and Picodon just means spicy in Occitan.  Occitan is the language that, over 200 years ago, lost out to modern French as the language that would unite the French nation. Nevertheless, Ocittan is often still spoken at home apart from perfect French. (See Langue Française, Occitan)

Behind every excellent Picodon cheese is a goat.
For at least seven months of the year, the goats are free-range. They will be eating grass and wild herbs, hawthorn leaves, acorns, and chestnuts. In the winter the goats are fed grasses collected from the same area during the summer, but, as may be expected, the hay and dried grasses produce a cheese with a slightly different taste.
In a restaurant when you have chosen your three or four kinds of cheese from the cheese trolley or have ordered a pre-selected cheese plate that includes Picodon AOP do remember that its flavor can overpower milder cheeses so enjoy the Picodon at the end. 

Picodon and fresh French country bread.
For the link to the A – Z on buying French Bread click here.
Picodon AOP on your menu:
Velouté de Potimarron aux Éclats de Châtaigne et Crème de Picodon – A velvety soup made with pumpkin and flavored with slices of chestnuts and a Cream of Picodon cheese sauce.

Truffled cappuccino of pumpkin with slices of chestnuts

La Salade Picodon: Picodon Chaud Dans sa Feuille de Brick, Lardons, Salade Verte.  Picodon Salad made with hot Picodon cheese served inside Feuille de Brick. Feuille de Brick or Brik is a flaky Tunisian thin durum wheat semolina based pastry. Here the pastry stuffed with Picodon cheese is accompanied by bacon pieces and a green salad.
Carpaccio de Boeuf Mariné et Son Croustillant de Picodon – A beef Carpaccio made with marinated beef and accompanied by a crisply grilled (or fried) Picadon cheese.

Tiramisu with strawberries and Picodon
For the Recipe click here.:
Photograph courtesy of

Salade au Magret de Canard Fumé et Flan du Terroir au Picodon. - A salad of smoked goose breast served with a traditional tart made with Picodon cheese. French flans are usually tarts made using pâte brisée, a crusty pastry,

Suprême de Poulet De l’Ardèche Sauce Crème de Picodon, Crique Ardéchoise.  Breast of Ardeche chicken served with a Picodon cream sauce and accompanied by a Crique Ardéchoise, which is a traditional potato pie.    A crique in your French-English dictionary may indicate a creek or even a fiord; however, the word crique here comes from Occitan and not French.

A Crique Ardéchoise, a traditional Ardeche potatoe pie.
Photograph courtesy of Plum Lyon on instagram
Picodon, Picodon, and more Picodon
If you are traveling in this area, you will see other cheeses with the word Picodon on the label, though without the AOC/AOP. These other Picodon cheeses are mostly traditional variations of the Picodon AOP cheese.  These other cheeses were created around the same time as the Picodon AOP, probably in the 14th or 15th century. They will have slightly different textures and flavors. Despite the lack of that AOP, many of these other Picodon cheeses are excellent, and you may buy them in a local Fromagerie, a cheese shop. Most of these Picodon cheese are only available locally as they do not produce enough for commercial distribution outside a limited area. On the plus side, they will cost you much less than their more famous cousin.

Goats’s cheeses on sale.
 When buying a Picodon AOC cheese, or one of the close cousins, try and do so in a good Fromagerie. A fromagerie has trained staff and they will be able to explain the differences among the various Picadons and also vacuum pack cheeses if you are buying one or more to take home. For the link to buying cheese in France and taking it home click here.

Picodon cheeses on sale.
The Fete de Picodon

If you are visiting the Rhône-Alpes, remember that the third Saturday and Sunday in July brings you the Fête de Picodon.  This fete is held in the village of Saoû, in the department of Drôme. The village of Saoû, with less than 600 inhabitants is the Picodon AOP producers' promotional center.   Here you may enjoy Picodon AOC cheese tastings together with local wines. The fete also has attractions planned for children that include parades with clowns wandering around.  On Saturday, there is a human circus that everyone can enjoy and Saturday night brings a number of concerts that all may enjoy without charge.  Of course, you will have to pay for all the snacks, plates of French Fries, cheeses, and wines that you consume. On Sunday there is a huge luncheon that you may join in, for a very reasonable price; however, you must order a place in advance, and you may do so via the internet. For 2016 on Sunday there is a large market selling nearly everything under the sun; the market offers, antiques, would-be antiques, modern artworks, fruits, wines, other cheeses and more. The two-day fete brings over 10,000 visitors every year! Within 30 km (19 miles) of  Saoû there are plenty of B and B’s and hotels up to  3 and 4 stars, but book ahead.

The village of Saoû
For the French-language website of the "La Fête du Picodon" click or copy/paste the link below.  This website may also be visited in English with Google or Bing Translate apps.

The Confrérie de Picodon

The Confrérie de Picodon is a brotherhood, and sisterhood of the Knights of the Picodon Cheese.  These valiant knights dress up in would be ancient costumes, and during the year they work to promote the Picodon AOP  cheese and they, with others, organize this fete. They will be in costume during the fete and at other times when they will be checking that you are only sold the genuine article.

The Confrérie de Picodon
While most of the Picodon AOP cheese is produced in the departments of Ardèche and Drôme, some farms in the departments of Gard and Vaucluse are for historical reasons permitted to make the cheese, and so in those departments do not be surprised by local Picodon fetes.

Music at the Fête du Picodon
Apart from promoting the Picodon AOC cheese the village of Saoû has many other activities throughout the year, from rock climbing to music festivals.  In and around the villages in these areas, you may also find music, other local cheeses as well as wines from the Ardèche and the Drome.  You will also find many other locally grown and produced products. On sale will be honey, (especially the chestnut honey from the Ardeche), poultry, lamb, snails, lavender, Ardeche Safran, the herb, fruits and much more.  As may be expected the Romans were in the Drôme and Ardeche, and they brought fruit trees, including apricots, peaches, and cherries among others.  Those trees have created, in the valleys of the Ardèche, orchards that produce excellent fruit that is sold all over France. Call your local French Government Tourist Office for the dates of all the happenings in the village of Saoû and in departments of Drome and Ardèche

The English Language website of the Rhone-Alps is:

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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016.
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman



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