One great advantage of living in the UK is the oppertunity for travel. One trip we made was to the alpine region of France where we are lucky enough to stay with some friends. One food orientated outing that we made was to visit the farm of some friends of our hosts. They live in the Chartreuse valley (the same location as where the famous liquor of the same name was originally produced) in Savoie.
The farm and the region in general is dominated by the very impressive Massif de la Chartreuse. This photgraph really doesn't do justice to the size and magnificant proportions of the massif.
The goats. I believe that these are the hardy Alpine breed variously known as Gemsfarbige Gebirgsziege, Chamoise des Alpes, Chamoix Alpine, Camosciata alpina, depending on their location. As you can see they are lovely things. The every morning during the summer the goats are taken out of their barn and lead up into the pasture. The pasture that the goats are taken too are rotated in a set pattern, as they are fussy eaters and would only eat certain plants if given the chance. The pasture I saw was mostly grass, with a great deal of mixed herbage. Just glancing about me I noticed oregano, mint, thyme, yarrow, gentian, strawberry and violets.
In the evenings the goats are lead off their high pasture and back to the barn for milking. They seemed rather keen on this, no doubt due to their full udders.
Goat farmer senior and junior.
Apparently I am milking the goats in exactly the wrong way. This has all looked very bucolic and a city bound persons escapist fantasy, but the reality is that it takes a great deal of work and personal sacrifice to achieve, which is especially difficult with a young family. The couple farming the goats mentioned that while they are not from local families, they have been welcomed by the community as they are one of the few young couples that actually want to stay in the area and farm.
The cheese production is very serious, the various cheese rooms are climate controlled and hair nets, over-alls and fresh boots are worn in this production area. Several types of cheeses are made, fresh chèvre, in which the milk is cultured before adding rennet, the resultant curds are then moulding into various shapes and aged for various lengths of time. As the cheese ages it gets progressively smaller and darker as the moisture content reduces and the flavour alters.
A larger tomme is also made. This is a 'cooked' cheese, in which the fresh milk has rennet added to it and the resultant curds are then heated to 30.C before being strained and moulded. The temperature and humidity of the the aging rooms for the two cheeses is also different and the cheese is of a very different character. Both types of cheese were rather excellent.