Thursday, April 26, 2012


Valençay is one of the classic raw milk mold-ripened chèvres from the town of Valencay, in the Loire Valley of France. The texture is smooth and dense with a mild, lemony, and altogether clean flavor. Made by allowing the curd to drain into a mold, it is then removed and covered with salted charcoal ash and allowed to ripen for about 4 to 6 weeks. During this period the rind of the Valencay will thicken slightly and acquire blue marks.

The AOC regulations for this cheese require raw milk, and most Valencay is aged less than the 60 days that the U.S. government demands for raw-milk cheese. As a result, true AOC Valencay should be unavailable here, yet I still see the pyramids at cheese counters. Some of this cheese is pasteurized and thus not entitled to the Valencay name. It will be similar in character and may be quite as good, but it will have a made-up name like "Tradition du Berry." (Berry is the French region from which Valencay comes.)

At the cheese counter, look for a Valencay that borders on scary, with a funky, wrinkled rind and substantial gray and white mold development. When young, the chalk-white cheeses are coated with gray ash, and then numerous molds colonize on them. With age, they will become molten just under the rind, creamy toward the center and firm at the core. The paste should have salt and tang in just the right proportions, with a faintly nutty flavor and no hint of ammonia. Pair with a Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre or Chablis.

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