The staggering diversity of cheeses in this world never ceases to astound me. That one thing, milk, can be manipulated into so many different tastes, textures and forms is a marvel that, I’m not exaggerating, makes me happy to be alive.
As with wine, though, the variety of cheeses can be daunting when it comes time to choose one. To help, Chez Loulou has been systematically tasting cheeses, and writing about them, since April of 2007. Her Fête du Fromage is now an “International cheese tasting event” which invites bloggers from all over to share their cheese finds with the world, or at least the world wide web. I’m happy to join the party.
A cheese that’s new to me but which I immediately started counting among my favorites after a single bite: Pérail.
This is a raw sheep’s milk cheese from the Aveyron that is mild enough to convert those who don’t normally like fromage de brebis. Pérail is not overly sheepy but neither is it sheepish; slightly floral and and a little grassy, I think it’s surprisingly complex for being so delicate.
Honestly, though, what I really love about this cheese is the texture. Inside, it’s like custard, like a perfectly silky pudding, creamy and unctious, not runny. It has a tender, bloomy rind that does not overpower the interior.
I should mention that Pérail isn’t made from just any sheep’s milk, but milk of the Lacaune sheep, the very same milk used to make Roquefort. In the 19th century, Pérail was made with the small amount of milk that wasn’t sold to make the famous blue cheese, only consumed locally, and was almost extinct until the 1990s, when some Pérail producers got together to raise standards and promote their product. I am so glad they did that.
Unpressed and aged only about three weeks, Pérail is best eaten within a few days of bringing it home. If you happen to buy a disc and forget about it for a couple of weeks (I don’t know anyone who would do such a thing…gulp) it will not be the same cheese it was when you put it in.
To celebrate their 100th anniversary, the venerable fromager Androuet worked with a small producer in the Aveyron to create Le 1909, not exactly a Pérail but a “Pérail-type” cheese (their words, not mine). Stronger, saltier, and more aggressive, this will please fans of “stinky” cheeses.
I am a fan of almost all kinds of cheeses. Androuet, for the moment, is my local. Invariably, when I go in, point to something and ask “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” the sweet fromager winks and says, “C’est le fromage.”
Just once, I’d like to wink back and say, “Mais non, c’est vous, le fromage,” but I’m not sure it would translate.