Thursday, June 25, 2009
Moutain Goats Make Good Cheese
Imagine a long dusty road winding up and up a French-country mountainside scattered with cows and alternating steep and rolling pastures. The red-tiled roofs of the quaint country houses dot the valley below; resembling the roses and geraniums grown so profusely throughout the area. The farmhouse is nestled on a ledge overlooking the green undulating hills and valleys below. There is a warm, soft breeze that occasionally belies the presence of farm animals but in a pleasant, unobtrusive way. Above the farm the hills rise on three sides decorated with tall grass, wildflowers and large tumbled rocks. This is goat heaven here and we can't help but think of Heidi and her friends. We are fortunate enough to have stumbled upon a biodynamic farm up here in the French Vosges Mountains. They have about 100 goats, a dozen or so pigs, about 10 beehives, a crowd of chickens, a duck, a few roosters and a pony. There are lots of rocky paths leading up the surrounding hills, that provide even more spectacular views of the valleys below. These are the regular stomping grounds of the lovely brown and black goats.
The farmers settled this corner of the mountain about 30 years ago and have been tending their goats and creating their delicious chevre ever since. They have lodging quarters in the old barn, which is attached to the farmhouse. Dinner was simple. Alsatian Tarte Flambe topped with bacon and cheese with a fresh salad, roasted potatoes and, of course, 5 local raw cheeses. Our host, the daughter--in-law of the family is from the French side of the Swiss Alps but her mother is Irish so she speaks perfect English with a slight French accent. She cooked and served us dinner with her baby on her hip (I tried to hold the baby but she was a little shy). It was delicious! There were two of their goat cheeses, one fresh and one aged, one aged blue cheese and two other local cows-milk cheeses.
Our children loved this place. They ran from the rocky hills to the smelly pig barn to see the goats and to pet the donkey, and back again. Before we left we watched a little chevre-making and bought as much as we could fit into our cooler. The fresh Chevre is so sweet and soft and fluffy we can't help but stick our fingers in it and eat a small block on the ride down the mountain.