Valençay is one of my favorite goat cheeses. I picked up a gorgeous one at the market last weekend, and when Nick decided to take some lovely photos of it, I realized it was high time I gave this flat-topped pyramid a moment in the spotlight.
This cheese, which is named for the Loire Valley town in which it is produced, earned AOC status in 1998, making Valençay the first place in France to have AOCs for both their wine and their cheese. Legend has it that Napoleon, upon returning from a particularly unsuccessful business trip to Egypt, stopped at the château in Valençay and flew into a rage upon seeing the local cheese in the shape of a pyramid. He lopped off the top with his sword, thus giving the cheese its current signature shape.
Stories aside, Valençay is made using only raw goat’s milk. It’s rubbed with salted ashes and left to mature for about 3 weeks, during which time a thin, bloomy gray rind develops. Just underneath the mellow, earthy rind lies the firm yet creamy interior. It has a pleasant citrusy tang, and is only mildly goaty. Even though it may look intimidating to cheese newbies (I myself used to shy away from ashed or ashy-looking cheeses), Valençay is not at all challenging. Which is not to say that die-hard cheese lovers don’t appreciate it. On the contrary, I think this is one that just about anyone can enjoy.
I bought this particular cheese from the very friendly proprietor of La Ferme de la Prairie (known in some circles as the UCG – Ultimate Cheese Guy), who sells only goat cheeses, and for very reasonable prices. While a typical Valençay might cost 7 or 8 euros, his comes in at 5 and change. He also provides samples of several of his cheeses, with a liberal tasting policy – knives and cheeses are placed on top of the counter, it’s up to you to cut your own tastes. He’ll ask how aged or fresh you’d like your cheese, and if you’re not sure, he’s happy to give his opinion. A visit to his stand is a must if I’m at the Grenelle market on Sunday morning.
On this day in 2010: Chartres
Originally published on Croque-Camille.