I’m doing what my friends in Provence did throughout the years they made goat cheese. I’m going for a walk amidst the chestnut trees (in this case a Chinese variety rather than of the Cévennes) at a neighboring organic farm, picking up the prettiest leaves that have fallen to the ground. I’ve been out twice now for the leaves. Once with my boys, once with a friend who’s visiting from France.
It’s such a pleasant way to spend time, it rather feels like playing hooky. But, we’re gathering leaves that can be found only at this time of year to use next spring, summer and fall on our bûches, or fresh goat cheese logs.
Thus, a few pleasant hours beneath the trees, where deer browse and gracefully pass through, followed by a few hours dunking the leaves into boiling water then laying them out to dry and flatten before putting them into bags and into the freezer. One of many things we’ll do ahead of time to be ready for the spring milk.
We’ve dried off most of the herd this past month, keeping only 4 in milk so I could continue to make some cheese. Now that we’re tasting what I made this summer and loving it, it’s really hard to close up shop for the winter. The tommes we made have come out really well. Some of the small ones were a bit too salty — something to be careful about in the future — but the larger ones (3-5lbs) have been quite pleasant. Some we washed in diluted brine, some with a local hard cider, and I’m going to experiment with a local winery’s bubbly wine (Larry Mawby’s Crémant) with the tomme I made this morning, and the tomme I’ll make next week.
Another pleasant surprise was tasting a cheese made in the style of somewhere between a camembert and a reblochon, but with a twist. The twist permitted an aging time that can exceed (though not by much) 60 days. It was strong, yes, but good with no off flavors and a rich and firm creamy texture. I’ve started another batch with that technique, and I suppose we’ll know by Christmas how it turns out. Patience and careful note-taking are key.