The Loire valley has offered quite a few fine products to the world and our today’s cheese is one of them. A native of the beautiful region called Sancerrois, it calls villages like Amigny, Asnières-sur-Sancerre, Bue, Champlin or Verdigny its home. In a man’s world you’d call it a short guy, displaying a diameter of hardly 6 cm and a height of around 3.5 cm, weighing only 60 grams. Small but powerful, that’s what you should call the
Crottin de Chavignol
What’s in a name? The experts have brought up two equally valid explanations. The official legend has it that the name comes from an oil lamp made of terracotta used in the region in former times – which I doubt, actually. “Crottin” is so close to the French word “crotte” (meaning, forgive me, shit or, less offensive, poo-poo) that the second version is far more likely: it tells the story of ancient producers finding forgotten, whole-dried, blackened cheese pieces hiding somewhere in their pantries by the end of winter. Pieces that resembled, well, a goat’s “crotte”.
Once you find a Crottin de Chavignol on your cheese platter, you’ll forget all of the above observations. It’s a snow white, charming, elegant product, depending on age and treatment more or less sec, more or less creamy but always satisfying. Like many goat cheeses, the Crottin comes with light and pleasant sour flavours that make you forget about the 45 grams of fat in 100 grams of cheese. Eat it raw on a piece of crunchy baguette, with a small salad on the side seasoned with a vinaigrette containing walnut oil – it’s a feast. Use it for the preparation of a “chèvre chaud”-dish, cut in half and browned under the oven’s grill – a delicacy.
To me, Crottin de Chavignol is a member of the high nobility of French cheese. From what is known, we can assume that its ancestors were around at least since the 16th century when goat herds started roaming the region known as Sancerrois. The first written document known that mentioned the Crottin by its name dates from 1829. That would mean, in French terms, that this cheese is pretty much a youngster. I assume it has been around for much longer. Wine for the Crottin? Has to be white. Sancerre!
Here’s a short touristy video showing a guy wandering through Sancerre vineyards and slicing a Crottin in the end. Nice.