The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

Posted by on in Food & Drink

Roquefort - cheese, pines, goats and sheep

One of the most well-known French cheeses internationally is sure to be Roquefort, a salty blue cheese made from sheep's milk.  I live in Roquefort.  But not that one.  I live in Roquefort les Pins - Roquefort the Pines, named after the abundance of majestic pine trees in the forest around us - situated in the Alpes-Maritimes on the Côte d'Azur near Nice.  The Roquefort town, of the cheese fame, is in the Aveyron département near Millau and is actually called Roquefort sur Soulzon.  Only cheese produced there, aged in the Combalou caves can be called Roquefort.  It has what's called AOC status (more on that later) and is nothing to do with my little Roquefort.   So just as I get called "Lou" a lot I also get plenty of comments on my Facebook page about how much people love "my" cheese!  Now you know the difference, I'm glad I've cleared that up!

     Roquefort cheese

My area of France is actually one of the least cheesey areas in the country.  We have no dairy around here, just goats and some sheep higher up in the mountains.  So it's these animals who provide the milk for the nearest local cheeses.  There are a couple of farms in the vacinity that produce delicious fresh creamy chèvre, (goat's cheese) which comes in a variety of ways, such as covered in pepper, herbs or even petals. They are all generically called "chèvre", no distinguishing names here. 

      chèvre fromage

Perhaps the most well-known cheese in the area comes from the mountains North-West of Roquefort les Pins in the Alpes of Haute Provence, though its fame is relative and I doubt many people outside France have heard of it.  It's called Banon, and is, not surprisingly, a goat's cheese. Its particularity is that it is wrapped in chestnut leaves tied with a piece of natural raffia.  It also has AOC status, just like Roquefort cheese.

      cheese 2


So what is AOC? AOC (Appellation d'origine côntrolée - controlled designation of origin) is the certification of a geographical denomination used to refer to a product which comes from a particular place and whose qualities and nature are exclusively due to this place.  It is most commonly used for wines and cheese though it also applies to some meat, butter and honey, and even lavender and lentils! It ensures a strict quality control and that copies can't be made.  Roquefort was the first cheese to receive the AOC label in 1925.  

       chèvre fromage goats cheese

Getting back to my part of France, another cheese found in Provence is Brousse, a soft, grainy cheese a little like ricotta. Originally from Marseille and originally made from goat's milk, it is now produced in various parts of Provence and Corsica and can be made from ewe, cow or goat's milk. It is in the process of applying for AOC status but doesn't have it yet.  Brousse is relatively uncommon and I think I could go as far as to say that most French haven't even heard of it. If you do come across it, try it stuffed in courgette flowers or drizzled with honey.  It is delicious served sweet or savoury. 

         Brousse cheese

Have you heard of or eaten any of these cheeses?  Do you have a favourite cheese or does your area produce a special one?  Do tell!


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  • Guest
    Kanchan @ The Intrepid Misadventurer vendredi, 27 juin 2014

    Ah, makes sense now..though you've left me hungering for goats cheese, chives and some nice chutney and crackers! How on earth do the French stay so slim?! ;) x

  • Guest
    Phoebe vendredi, 27 juin 2014

    Ha ha, if you will keep asking questions at the end of your comments Kanchan, I'll just have to keep pointing you to other posts!!! Here's the answer to your question:

  • Guest
    Sophie at Franglaise Cooking dimanche, 11 mai 2014

    I haven't heard of or eaten any of them, despite living in the region for 12 years and being a big foodie! We used to eat a lot of Savoie cheeses as Hubs holidayed in the Haute Savoie every summer with his grandparents. Now have the world's largest craving for French cheese....

  • Guest
    Honest Mum mercredi, 07 mai 2014

    Brilliant post and as a savoury girl, I can't live without cheese, love goat's cheese too! Thanks for linking up to #tastytuesdays

  • Guest
    Phoebe vendredi, 09 mai 2014

    I'd hate to have to give up cheese and love eating it with pratically every meal, in true French styme!

  • Guest
    Marcia mardi, 06 mai 2014

    Thanks for explaining the difference, Phoebe. I can see why they'd think you were in that Roquefort (and maybe even why they call you Lou.)
    I'm surprised that the AOC certification also applies to lentils!
    Thanks for linking up this week.

  • Guest
    Phoebe vendredi, 09 mai 2014

    AOC applies to the lentils from Puy which are considered somehow worth this special staus! I agree it's pretty bizarre.

  • Guest
    Corinna dimanche, 04 mai 2014

    Now I am hungry and a cheddar cheese doesn't seem to quite fit the bill.

  • Guest
    Phoebe lundi, 05 mai 2014

    Funnily enough cheddar sounds great to me! I'm hungry too! :p

  • Guest
    Catherine samedi, 03 mai 2014

    Maybe we have eaten one of these special cheeses when we have stayed with you at lou messugo. You always provide such yummy regional goodies.

  • Guest
    Phoebe lundi, 05 mai 2014

    We often provide the chèvre from the ferme de la Gourette (2nd photo) in the welcome pack, so I'm sure you've had that one at least. Next time I'll get you some Banon.

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