Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Beauty of Valencay

*This is part of a paid series I write for Di Bruno Bros. 

I have a little thing for goat cheeses rolled in ash. I find them arresting, like Alfred Stieglitz photos. Black against white, grainy against creamy – I revel in the contrasts.

Valencay is one of those leave-me-breathless cheeses that Stieglitz probably would have photographed if he and Georgia O’Keefe hadn’t been so obsessed with driftwood. As an object, it’s architecturally pleasing – like a smoldering pyramid; as a cheese, it’s downright ethereal.   

Pick up any cheese book, and you’ll find the author fawning: Janet Fletcher calls Valencay a “classic.” Steven Jenkins writes, “Napoleon loved it, so will you.” And Patricia Michelson waxes on about baking Valencay brownies in her delightful book, The Cheese Room.

To read on, please visit the Di Bruno Blog


  1. That is one funky Valencay. The ones I'm aging look nothing like that, and just started going brown on the bottom. I had thought they were meeting their end. Perhaps not?

    I thought of you when I uploaded these photos today:

  2. Yes, Kevin, you bring up a good point. I have bought other Valencays that look quite different -- more like cement with fine stubble. This one intrigued me because its surface was so dramatic. I am told that this comes from Jacquin in the Loire Valley.

  3. thats a lil geotrichum candidum on rind, thats the mold you said made seasmoke like a little mochi! valencay are surface ripened if they are not consumed fresh and that one looks like its gettin nice and oozy right under the surface, the stage after this would be firming and not ripening the whole way through. fresh cheeses will react differently depending on the ambient molds in the area where you age them. brown is not usually a good mold color for cheeses but doesnt spell the end either. try aging next to more white molded cheeses or giving your aging area a proper antiseptic scrubbing.

  4. Wow, that's such an interesting cheese, I had no idea that cheeses could be rolled in ash directly to provide a smoky flavor.

    I just added you to my blogroll!

  5. I love it when Anonymous swoops in, full of cheese wisdom. Thank you, my angel. And, Kate, just so you know, baby, that ash is tasteless. No smoky smoky.

  6. Thanks for weighing in, Anonymous - appreciated!