Some forty years ago a group of people decided to return to nature and leave big cities, mainly Paris.
Hippies were driven by the ideas of simple lifestyle and communities. They ended up farming, producing cheese, or making various handicrafts such as pottery. Nowadays they appear to run in the rat race just like those who stayed behind, and family seems to be the only form of community that survived.
Limousin is one of the old hippie areas, though most of the goat farms are located further in the South. There are about 3500 goats in the province. The cheese production is marginal on a national scale, but the producers are dedicated and passionate according to a leaflet published by local farmers.
The Secret Of Goat Cheese
We met a couple, Richard and Véronique, who are running their goat cheese farm in Pontarion, near Aubusson. They offered us a pragmatical insight to the secrets of cheese making; how to turn one liter of goat milk with a drop of rennet and a bit of the root of cheese into curd cheese in a day, then put it into moulds, add a bit of salt, turn it a couple of times, and finally let it dry in a steady temperature. Please check the photos to see how it happens.
Producing cheese is hard work and does not attract the young who appreciate more their 35-hour work week and vacations. Richard has to get up early to milk his 58 goats. After that the goats have to be taken to the paddock. In the evening the goats are fetched back into the barn and milked for the second time. This routine has to be performed every single day around the year. It results 180 liters of milk, which Richard’s wife, Véronique, turns into delicious goat cheese. 0,75 liters of milk gives 150 grams of fresh cheese which will dry up in a few days to a ready-made cheese puck weighing 75 grams.
Cheese Is Like Wine
The age of cheese correlates to the price similarly to wine. It is stored in a temperature-controlled fridge for aging. Some are contaminated with penicillin for making blue cheese. The shape is either a leaf, a cylinder or a puck. The leaf is called La Feuille du Limousin. The shape comes from a leaf of a chestnut tree, which is the symbol of Limousin. The taste depends on aging but mostly on food that the goats are eating. In this farm goats feed on grain, grass and hay.
On top of farming and production there is a twice a week trip to the local markets in Bourganeuf and Aubusson for sales. Markets have an important social function for French people. Buying products from farmers is also considered a sign of support to their efforts. According to Véronique, people are nowadays interested in how their food is produced, and they like to visit farms, especially organic. However, EU is inventing new laborious regulations and trying to forbid unpasteurized milk which is vital for producing good cheese with a strong taste.
If you are interested in cheese, we recommend visiting Véronique and Richard in Limousin:
Richard and Véronique Weimann La Roussille Chavanat 23250 Chavanat France Tel/fax +33 5 55 66 60 29
We must confess that we have never seen such hard-working hippies, not even in Finland. As a result of our cheese pilgrimage and after taking hundreds of cheese photos we are considering to write a book about cheese. Thank you, Véro and Richard!