I’ve been on a goat cheese bender lately – the light, lemony taste of fresh chevre just reminds me of spring. Aged goat cheese, on the other hand, is my new tote. I picked up this tiny puck of Crottin over the weekend, and it was so cute -- like a child-size brie – I wanted to put it on my desk at work and use it as an eraser.
So it was a suhhhr-prise, when I cut into this baby last night and felt a complex, flinty furnace, redolent of hay and brine, shoot through the roof of my mouth. Pete Demchur, who made the Crottin for his Shellbark Hollow Farm label, spent time in the Pyrenees last summer observing how French farmers aged their goat cheese. “I’m going hog wild with it,” he told me over the phone a couple days ago. “I like my cheese dry and sharp.”
Pete is a self-taught cheesemaker who runs the oldest goat dairy in Chester County. He started about 15 years ago with a few goats, and now the man makes cheese seven days a week. This summer, he and his wife Donna are debuting a couple new cheeses, including Crottin and jars of marinated goat cheese biscuits (soft, unaged goat cheese in oil and herbs). I have one in my fridge and it is so damn beautiful, I hate the thought of opening it.
If you’re open to compact, barnyardy goodness, Shellbark Hollow’s Crottin is worth seeking out at a Philadelphia Farmers’ Market. The Demchurs sell at the Piazza on Saturdays, and at markets in Chestnut Hill and Elkins Park. Crottin would be great on a spring cheese board, or served warm on a salad of grilled asparagus and woodsy mushrooms. The flavor is a conversation piece; it escalates from salty-sour (that catches you in the back of your cheek pockets) to a barnyardy headiness that seems to off-gas through your nose, then it turns green-apple-and-black-pepper on you at the end.
Crottin means “turd” in French, but this is no cheese worth tossing. It does kick you in the arse though, so watch out.