Photograph of Chabichou du Poitou
Chabichou du Poitou
Map of France showing the location of Poitou

The paste is firm and white and the rind is pale blue-grey in colour. Emphatically goaty in flavour and aroma.

Made using goats' milk Made using unpasteurised milk

The 'Saracens' were a people of Arab descent, who originally settled in the south of Spain but then gradually moved north into France. By the 8th century they had reached Poitiers in the Loire valley, but it was at this point that they were finally repelled. When they were expelled from France, they left behind not only goats, but also recipes for making cheese from their milk. The Loire valley became the starting point in the history of goats' milk cheese in France, and remains the most important area of production.

Villages on either side of the Loire river produce goats' milk cheeses of different sizes and shapes. These cheeses have delicately varied flavours and include five AOC's - a classification given to cheeses in the same way as wines. In the eastern part of the area there is the small drum-shaped Crottin de Chavignol; to the west the log-shaped Saint Maure de Tourraine; to the north of the central region the round-shaped Selles-sur- Cher; to the south the pyramid-shaped Valençay and to the south-west the cone- shaped Chabichou de Poitou. Poitou is the most important goat breading region in France. The Chabichou du Poitou takes its name from the local dialect word for 'goat' derived from the Arabic 'chebli'.

The cheese is emphatically goaty in flavour and aroma. The paste is firm and white and the rind is pale blue-grey in colour. There are many industrial versions of this cheese but ours is made using traditional farmhouse methods.

Each cheese is approximately 6cm high, is cone-shaped with a 4cm base and a 3cm top, weighs 100 to 150grammes and has a minimum fat content of 45%. Cheeses are available throughout the year and the best are made from spring to autumn. Chabichou can be eaten fresh or matured for four weeks in a cool and humid cellar, during which time the blue-grey rind develops.

Chabichou can be accompanied with Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé or the red wines of the Loire. The cheese is excellent both on the cheese-board and for cooking; it is fabulous when sliced and grilled.

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