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Saint Maure de Touraine

This is the classic goat cheese originating from the Loire region of France and has been made there in much the same way for over one thousand years.
It can be easily recognized by its long form and small log-like shape.
This simple log shape or 'Buche' has been copied throughout the world, so it is no surprise that so many goat cheeses in our supermarkets today are presented in the familiar log-like tube with the plastic robes.


Our focus for this month will be a very specific cheese "Saint Maure de Touraine."  While the name Saint Maure is not protected and is used for cheese from other countries in similar log like shapes, Saint Maure de Touraine has been protected by a specific AOC designation since 1990.  (AOC translates from French to mean Controlled Name of Origin.)

Saint Maure de Touraine cheese has the highest production of any goat cheese in all of France and originally had no protection until 1990.

It was a recent re-read of one of my favorite books by Patrick Rance titled simply "French Cheese" (unfortunately only a small amount were printed and it has long been out of print but still shows up in used book stores) that had me thinking of writing this recipe page for this cheese.

In reading the book "French Cheese" Rance talks about his first adventures into the St Maure area during the 1950's when the cheeses in the market were all natural rinds and it was not the practice to add ash or charcoal to the surface of the cheese but to just allow the natural drying off and mold formation to develop depending on the particular ripening environment. He noted that there was an incredible variation in the cheeses he saw and tasted, ranging from rouge to grey to blue-black - all most likely due to moisture levels and the native molds where they were aged.

By the time he was writing his book in the mid 1980's many of these cheeses were now being treated with ash/charcoal and more salt than was needed and the character of the cheese was not what it had been. He felt that the salt overshadowed the qualities of the milk.

The AOC regulations since 1990 now specify that the ash is a part of the final process, but the salt used by many of the farm producers has been brought back into balance.

Although you will find many variations on the St Maure style of cheese, there is only one legal Saint Maure de Touraine.  Since it is now an AOC cheese, this will be found along the Loire River in France near the town of Saint Maure (of course!).

This cheese differs from other log or "buche" shaped cheeses in that:

  1. It is always a lactic fermentation with little to no rennet added.
  2. Ripening/coagulation takes place for about 24 hours.
  3. The curd is never cut before molding or pre-drained, instead it is ladled directly into the molds either individually or with a large scoop and a distribution tray for many molds ganged together.
  4. It has a piece of rye straw inserted through the center of the cheese after draining but before removing from the mold. This helps to hold the cheese together while unmolding and during its young life, provides a means to handle the young cheese, and provide some aeration to the cheese center during ripening.
    Today this straw actually has printed on it the makers info to mark each cheese origin. (I can only imagine how they do that!)
  5. It also develops a natural grey flora on the surface which helps with aging and transforming the paste as the cheese is ripened.

On the industrial perspective, the largest amount of this cheese is produced by a handful of large scale producers. This little video by Will Studs (start about half way through it) will give you an idea of how that goes!! I do not think it is the AOC cheese since it simply says St Maure and not "de Touraine" and no "AOC" on the label but you will get the idea of how they can produce a lot of cheese.


A Bit of History

From our friends at Formaggio Kitchen:
The history of this cheese is rather obscure, but it seems that the cheese was first made way back during the Arab invasion of France, when the Arabs introduced goats to this region of France. After the defeat at Poitiers, lots of the Moorish soldiers stayed in the country and moved up north in the search for hospitable land.
Based on the old French word “Maure” which means “black,” Sainte Maure, the ‘black saint’ before losing his status as the divinity of the harvest and as a Pict and a Celt, was responsible for the cycles of transformation of life. In the minds of ancient believers, this saint presided over the bacterial fermentation and decomposition of black vegetation which was smoking in the earth. This saint also favored the wealth of the people, especially in the ripening of the cheese which ensured preservation of the cheese even though the curds of the goat’s milk are perishable. Another legend tells that the Arabic women, abandoned after the defeat at Poitiers, taught the inhabitants of the region how to make this cheese. This legend explains the name Sainte-Maure de Touraine. Proven by archaeological evidence, small herds of goats were present in Touraine well before the 8th century.


Recipe for Making "Saint Maure de Touraine"


Our cheese this month will try to stay as close to the original cheese from Touraine as possible. I will finish the recipe with several different treatments for aging.

Before you Begin:

You will need:
2
gallons of goat's milk
1 packet of our Chevre culture (2 packs if the milk is pasteurized)
Just a pinch of Geotrichum (1/16 tsp) to assure the surface development.
Rennet is already included in the Chevre pack
Ash to dust the surface of the cheese and reduce acid.
Salt

Calcium chloride for pasteurized cold stored milk
A good thermometer
A small spoon or ladle to fit the 2" opening of the tall molds for curd transfer.
2 of our Saint Maure Molds for each gallon of milk
No draining cloth or press needed but draining mats should be used under the molds
To remain true to the traditional cheese I use a piece of Rye Straw about 8" long for each cheese to stabilize the curd and to help aerate the interior of the cheese as it ripens. This will need to be sourced locally.

Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.


Acidifying and Heating the Milk:

Begin by heating the milk to 86F (30C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove, make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.


The 2 gallons of milk I picked up for the St. Maure. 1 gallon chilled overnight and one fresh and warm from the milking in the AM. When combined, they were a nice 68-70F and needed very little heat to reach the 86F target for adding culture.

Once the milk is at 86F the culture can be added. To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps, sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in. Also you may add 1/16th of the Geotrichum mold to the milk at this point to encourage a natural surface rind.

Some folks do prefer to add the culture at 70-74F and this is also fine but will take a bit longer for acid production. The 86F we choose is to help keep the coagulation time in the 24 hr. range which works best for a daily production of this cheese.


Coagulation with rennet:

No rennet is needed since this was already supplied in the chevre pack.

The milk now needs to set undisturbed for 18-24 hrs while the culture works in a major role and the rennet has its secondary role. During this time, sanitize your molds and draining mats in preparation for the curd transfer.

When starting the ripening at 86F, allow the milk to drop naturally to room temp (72F).
At about 5-8 hours you will notice that the milk has begun to thicken. Allow the coagulation to continue until you observe the following:

  1. First, a few small pools of whey rise to the surface.
  2. Next, the pools begin to join into a thin layer of whey.
  3. Finally, the layer of whey increases to about 1/8-1/4" on the surface.


The whey rising to the surface can be ladled off before beginning the curd transfer.

At this point (18-24 hrs) it is time to transfer the curd to the sanitized molds.


Transferring Curds and Releasing the Whey:

The curd for this cheese is never cut or pre-drained as in other styles of chevre or lactic cheese. The curd is carefully transferred to the small molds-as intact as possible. This will create the nice tight paste so characteristic of this cheese.

Begin by setting down the draining mats on a surface that will collect and allow the whey to run off (about 1.5 gallon of whey will be released from 2 gallons of milk).

Next, set the molds on the draining mats. These molds are VERY narrow and tall so are EXTREMELY UNSTABLE. My solution to this is to place all of the molds together and stabilize with a couple of elastic bands. I even use a 5th mold that never gets filled to provide a larger base area for more stability.

Now the fun begins! The entire curd mass needs to be transferred to these small opening molds with as little breakage as possible.
Fill the molds in a "round robin" manner with a small spoon or scoop. Keep adding curd until full.
Once full, the molds need to settle for about 15 minutes and are then filled again. This will need to be repeated until all of the curd has been used up.
Some patience is required here and perhaps your favorite mantra, some good music, or even some personal meditation can help pass the time.


Removing the Whey and Draining:

Allow the cheese to drain 18-24 hrs. The curd will drop by 1/2-1/3 of the mold height. When whey stops dripping, they can be unmolded. They should not be turned until this time.
When the whey draining has slowed to only a few drips, the cheese can be unmolded. The long narrow shape will be quite fragile and can be very easily broken at this point.

Traditionally, what they would do before unmolding is to insert a piece of rye straw through the center to improve the handling and aging aspect. My straw came from a local farm (I also use this as a bed for aging my St Nectaire cheese) and I sanitize the straw with a bit of steam when sanitizing my pot and tools the morning of cheese making.

  1. The straw will strengthen the cheese like a spine for handling.
  2. It can be used to avoid touching the cheese during the fragile surface molding.
  3. It will provide some aeration to the interior of the cheese for better ripening during aging.

Salting:

Salt should be added using a total of 1 tsp for each cheese. The easiest way I find is to sprinkle salt on a flat surface (I usually lay down a piece of waxed paper for this) and roll the cheese in this.

A small amount of ash/charcoal can be added to the salt as desired (1/8-1/4 tsp per cheese). I have finished 2 of the cheeses I made here with ash mixed into the salt. This mixture is spread on a flat surface and then the cheeses are rolled in it.


The image at the left was sourced from Jeanne Carpenter from her travels to visit the makers in St Maure.
The 2 on the right are from my recent batch for this recipe. Note how the salt carries some of the ash away as it pulls more moisture from the cheese.

Using Charcoal or Ash

The use of charcoal or ash in cheese making began with the use of ash from the burning of the grape vine clippings while preparing the vineyards. Later charcoal made from burning oak was used for this.
Adding charcoal or ash will sweeten the surface of your cheese and prepare it for the mold growth by neutralizing the acids of the cheese surface.
The ash coating will allow the moisture to be drawn out and the curd to mature without the rind becoming rancid or sticky. This will encourage the mold to develop quicker and more evenly.


I also left one of the cheeses with no surface addition other than the geotrichum added to the original milk shown here as the second cheese from the left.

For a non-traditional approach and after the salt has been absorbed, the cheese can be rolled in finely chopped fresh herbs, small colorful flower petals, fresh fine dried hay, or even a selection of dried seeds or nuts. I find a variety of these beautiful presentations in Italy using the St Maure log format.

I have added some fresh herbs, finely chopped and spread out on the board, then rolled the final bare cheese in this. We polished this one off within 7 days of the making.


Here are several images I have brought back from

the Slow Foods cheese festival in Bra, Italy over the years to give you some inspiration for unusual presentations:

Aging:

Cheese will need to dry off 2-3 days before moving to the aging room for the desired time.
The cheese can then be placed into your aging space at 52-56F and 90-95% moisture.

They will need to be turned daily and should be ready for the table in 6 days to several weeks.

Over the next few weeks, a natural mold will develop on the surface. The ones treated with ash will reduce the acidity and the mold surface will develop quicker.

Above are a couple of high magnification images taken on the surface of a St Maure cheese in a project at Harvard.

Here are the ash coated cheeses at about 5-6 days. Note the grey/white natural mold developing on the surface of the cheese.

The 2 on the left are the same ash treated cheeses at about 2-3 weeks.
Note the dried rippled surface typical of geotrichum and its drying effects.
The one on the right is the cheese with no ash.

How Long Should They Ripen and When Should We Eat These Cheeses?

Once the surface develops its natural mold, it will begin producing enzymes that ripen the cheese. You will notice the photos below from left to right show increasing stages of ripeness. Notice how the enzymes transform the paste from outside - in, over time.
The new cheese is removed from its mold, sprinkled with charcoal and salt and allowed to mature for a minimum of ten days. After ten days the exterior of the cheese is pale cream in color, it has a soft delicate texture but the characteristic mold has not yet developed. During the aging process, the cheese is turned every day by hand and the pale mold begins to grow.
After three weeks, the mold has darkened and the cheese has lost some of its weight and size. After five weeks the mold becomes more pronounced, but with a dry appearance and the pate has a firm texture with a round, balanced flavor.
At each stage they will have a very different texture, flavor and aroma.
Your best idea of when to eat them would be to make several and try them at different times during this aging cycle. My favorite is when they are about half transformed.

A word of caution on these wonderful cheeses. They do want to be treated well. Too much moisture or heat will turn them into a very strange runny mass of weeping cheese.
The photo on the right is from a display at the cheese festival in Italy in Sept. 2011. The weather was exceptionally hot in the 90's and these cheeses along with many other just gave up on their noble appearances. Soft young cheeses did not do well in that heat.

So that's it for this monthly recipe. I thought it to be a simple straight forward cheese when I started but, as per usual, once I started with the research, things began to roll along and I wound up with another lengthy recipe page.

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Thanks for joining our cheese making family, keep those stories & photos coming. We love to hear from you!

In Peace,
Ricki, the cheese queen

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