FOCUS ON CHEESE 2007 – Cyprus, Cape Verde, Italy, France: Goat Cheeses From Around the World

24 Sep 2007

From squeaky, salty halloumi to buttery-soft Pélardon and crumbly, hard Canestrato, today’s Taste Workshop entitled Goat Cheese Tour took tasters on a trip through the varied world of cheeses made from goat’s milk.
Elio Ragazzoni, a vice-president of ONAF (National Association of Cheese Tasters) and Slow Food collaborator, led the tasting, and started out by emphasizing how goat’s milk retains the aromatic substances present in the herbs and grasses it eats, and that these fragrances and flavors can often be perceived in the resulting cheese.
The first to be tasted was a halloumi from Cyprus, well matched to a crisp rosé wine from Trentino. It may not be rare, said Ragazzoni, but the cheese is almost always found only in an industrialized version, with traditional production methods at risk of extinction. Loucia Astreou of Slow Food Cyprus said it was made from the raw milk of a single herd of goats, and described how it would be eaten locally, either with refreshing mint or watermelon to cut the saltiness, or cooked, as halloumi’s firm texture means it can be grilled, roasted or stewed with vegetables.
The next cheese, Presidium Pélardon Affiné, is from the Camargue, near Montpellier in the south of France. The cheese is traditionally eaten very fresh, after just 11 days, but is only made in the spring and so has very limited availability. When aged for a month, it can be available for much longer periods of time, as well as offering a more complex flavor and firmer texture.
Planalto de Bolona is produced from the milk of goats who eke out a living from the harsh volcanic highlands of the island of Santo Antão in the Cape Verde archipelago, and is Slow Food’s first African cheese Presidium. Orlando Freitas, head of the cooperative who makes the cheese, and Mitzy Mauthe von Degerfeld, a University of Turin researcher working on a project to improve the island’s agriculture, presented the cheese, describing how the goats roam “anarchically” during the day, but gather at a certain time every day to be given precious water. With no electricity and no wood the milk cannot be heated, so the cheesemaking process begins immediately, using the natural heat of the milk direct from the animal and rennet from the kid goats.
The tasting concluded with two southern Italian cheeses, both made with the milk of native breeds of goat and both Slow Food Presidia, Girgentana from Sicily and Gargano from Puglia. The two-month-old Canestrato, made from the milk of Gargano goats, was aromatic and piquant, and paired beautifully with a thick, sweet Soave Recioto.

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