This is for Loulou. Well it is Chez Loulou inspired because she started talking about cheese every Tuesday and asked if anyone wanted to join the game.
Hardly one to pass up a chance to eat more cheese, I thought OK, I'll give it a whirl. And a whirl it is considering my schedule. (I am not too old to whine.) But I picked up two versions of one of my all time favorite cheeses to "share". One from Corse and one from the Pyrenees.
I am a brebis fan. Especially the ones that are firm and slightly salty, but not as much so as the Italian Pecorinos which you usually shave or grate. Before being completely initiated in the TRUE, the ONE, the ONLY language (cough) I never knew that I was a brebis fan. I though I liked sheep's milk cheeses.
But on one of my first extended excursions deep into the French heartland I had a discussion with my then future MIL during the course of dinner. She had asked me what were my favorite cheeses. There was no intention to trap me, she doesn't have that sort of mindset, she is quite a phenomenal woman. It was just a way to make conversation.
At the time my French was limited (enormous understatement) and I responded that my favorite cheese would be sheep's milk cheese. I put it "fromage de mouton."
Being polite and somewhat proper, she responded that, uh, but there is no such thing.
And I am like, but of course there is. Mouton, sheep, the one you where you get wool, you can also get cheese.
And she's like, but no, it is physically impossible.
Meanwhile the more bi-lingual savvy are pounding their fists on the table, rolling on the floor or otherwise amusing themselves. They, the evil ones who left us in this stalemate.
For those fluent in French it is fairly obvious. Yes, a "mouton" is a sheep, but generally speaking a male. A ram. While a female sheep or ewe is a brebi. So in her eyes I was trying to insist that you could get cheese from the ram. And that is as far as I will go with this.
Nevertheless, I still love fromage de brebis.
My favorite of the two was from the Pyrenees. It was a little sharper, nutty, lightly salty, and a little firmer. Still no trouble to slice but if you didn't handle it carefully it would crumble. The crust was nice and grungy looking and became thick in spots.
The brebis from Corse was from a smaller round. It suffered a little because the crust was a bit ammoniated. Still it was very good once separated from the rind, "la croûte". It had a smoother consistency which held together easily when sliced thinly, and the taste was milder, and more buttery with only the tiniest hint of saltiness.
I suspect the ammonia odor came from being cut and wrapped too long in plastic. (I wasn't at my favorite fromage shop, and I normally wouldn't have bought something I recognized as a potential problem.) Otherwise I have a feeling many people would prefer this one from Corse.
One of the easiest "brebis" cheeses to find is called Petit Basque and is quite good if not as complex as some of the cheeses from smaller, less commercialized producers. I would also be quite happy with a Spanish Manchego.
They all run from 20 to 25 euros a kilo. Not cheap. But with a good glass of wine, they make a wonderful desert. And even if the French don't cotton to it, I love them with slices of fresh fruit, particularly figs in season.