The Crottin de Chavignol cheese: Introduction
The name of the Crottin de Chavignol cheese comes from that of the commune of origin of the province of Berry. The habit of leaving cheeses to mature for the end of the season means that they become brown and dried, hence the word 'crottin' which means dung. Although the name of the Crottin de Chavignol cheese is not appropriate because it is a young or medium-aged cheese, it retained the name for the appellation d'origine (designation of origin).
The rearing of the goats is part of a tradition of the region of Sancerre, and dates back to the 16th century. The size of the Crottin de Chavignol cheese is linked to its history, the milk produced by the goats is not sufficient to make large cheeses. This has been recognised since the Apellation d'Origine Controlée (designation of origin) in 1976. The Crottin de Chavignol cheese takes the shape of a small round quoit and it weighs around 60 grams. It is matured until dry in the cool, well ventilated cellar for 2 weeks.
Exterior appearance of the Crottin de Chavignol cheese: fine, blueish rind, smooth and white cheese.
Odour of the Crottin de Chavignol cheese: light odour of goat
Texture of the Crottin de Chavignol cheese: firm and compact
Taste of the Crottin de Chavignol cheese: clean and nutty
The Crottin de Chavignol cheese reveals its varied character: fondant, flowery, more or less spicy, crumbly... Everything depends on its maturity. It is covered in a natural mould which is white or blue. It is white or ivory in colour and is smooth and firm. According to its age, the Crottin de Chavignol offers an infinite range of flavours.:
- medium-aged, it gives out a milky aroma and a discreet flavour of goat.
- Lightly flowery, its flavour is balanced
- More mature, it can be covered in blue Penicillium and releases an odour of fungi and undergrowth.
-Aged, the Chavignol reveals the flavour of hazlenuts and walnuts.
- When it is even more mature, preserved in a stoneware pot, the intensity of its creamy flavour is surprising.
History of the Crottin de Chavignol cheese.
It is in the Sancerre area, with its capital Sancerre and it's village of Chavignol, that the birthplace of the Crottin de Chevignol is situated. The rearing of goats has been a tradition in the Sancerre area since the 16th century, as shown in "The memorable history of Sancerre" written by Jean de Léry in 1573. The abbot Poupart recounts the siege of Sancerre of 1573 and the revival of the protestant resistance who were in the towns : " bulls, cows and goats were skinned, soaked, battered, chopped..." The goats were present in all of the exploits of the period where the goats, vines, cereals and forage were all treated in the same way. Requiring little food and often kept by the wives of winemakers, the goats satisfied the daily consumption of the inhabitants and brought an extra revenue thanks to the production of milk and cheese.
The date of origin of the name "Crottin de Chavignol" is more difficult to pinpoint, it seems that the goat's cheese of the Sancerre area had been named Crottin de Chavignol since the old days. In a work of 1829 titled "Statistics of Cher" the author, a tax and land-registry inspector, noted under the heading "Goats" : "their milk is not pure enough to make butter, but it can make a very good cheese: those of the Sancerre area are known under the name Crotins de Chavignolles."
The consumer gave it's name to the consumed. At the end of the 19th century, the attack of phylloxera on the vineyard, freed up the plots of land to use as grazing land for the goats and contributed to the development of the production of goat's milk, which spread to the Champagne berrichonne, the Sologne Orientale and the Valley of the Loire. In the 1900s the first affineurs appeared, who collected the cheeses from the farm. Thanks notably to the means of transport and to the installation of the new railway line between Paris and Nevers, the affineurs covered the markets of the big cities and the capital. The Crottin de Chavignol takes it name from the Berry term "crot" which means "hole." Also bearing this name were the places next to the rivers where the women did their washing. The clay soil earth which bordered these"crots" were used by the peasants who firstly used them to make oil lamps, and then as a cheese mould, for seperating the curds. "Crot" gave birth to the word "Crottin."