All things cheese in France

Monday, 12 March 2012

le Salon International de l'Agriculture 2012

Unbelievable, enormous and incredible!  This exposition, le Salon International de l'Agriculture, is always something to see. The animals, the products and the people are a tour de force. The French are incredibly proud of their agricultural heritage and their attachment to the land. This is the place to see it in full swing, 360 animal races, 2300 animals and 4000 products artisanal and industrial to discover and taste, you could spend days out at the Porte de Versailles trying to take it all in. 

In addition, the milk industry holds a Salon for cheese and milk product professionals. It is a real "Who's who" for the cheese industry. Small producer, collectives, industrial producers are there to show off their wares and convince new clients to give them a try. 

We went and met some of them such as the two women from the Cévennes whose cooperative, La Fromagerie des Cévennes, regroups the goat milk of 22 producers from le Gard, la Lozére and les Cévennes to produce favourites like le Pélardon AOP; Moissac des Cévennes and le Seillou. They have introduced rediscovered or new cheeses such as the tomme la Parpaillote or le Réboussier.  You can visit their farm and meet them in person.

Or another group, Etoile du Quercy, which is part of the company les Fromagerie de l'Etoile, who introduced two interesting cheeses - le Compostelle and le Rocamadour Grand Cru. Each are 100% raw goat milk from the region of Quercy in the south west and really wonderful, creamy examples of the goat cheeses from this region. The Compostelle is a cross between a Rocamadour and a traditional Cabécou.  It is a little bit bigger and thicker with a firmer pate. What makes the Rocamadour Grand Cru special is the traditional cheese comes in it's very own little wooden box just like a Camembert, which makes it perfect for cheeseboards.

Monsieur Jean-Yves Bordier, the famous fromager turned Maître de Beurre, was there showing off his skills. He produces le Beurre Bordier, a beurre de baratte which uses several time consuming techniques, barattage and malaxer to form the butter. When the raw butter is at a specific temperature and texture, it is beaten with two small wooden paddles and shaped either into unique little forms or huge 5 kilo portions for la crème de la crème restaurants. Besides doux, demi-sel ou salé, some of his unique butters are smoked, with Algae or Piment d'Espelette.

This expo is so amazing that you really can spend days going from building to building, looking at cows, watching goat be born, chicks hatched, the competitions, sampling all the delicacies from the various regions and just absorbing the culture.  I always invite people to go with me just to see their reaction to this spectacle of the countryside.  It is really something not to miss and now we are seeing other countries start to participate, which means it will only be bigger next year.