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With all the truth bombs that need to be dropped and red pills dispensed concerning the US president, I am woefully behind with a write-up of my trip to Cannes earlier this summer.

I bought three types of cheese to bring back home. Two came from Monoprix and are the subject of this post.

The Cannes Monoprix has a separate cheese cabinet for products from small producers. Most of the cheese in that cabinet is made with raw (cru) milk. Raw milk is excellent for developing and maintaining good gut bacteria, thereby promoting overall health.

Banon

Banon is made in a town of the same name located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region.

It is a small round cheese which comes wrapped in chestnut leaves which are tied with raffia. The Banon cheeses I buy are semi-soft: not runny, just pliable.

Banon is made from raw goat’s milk and is available most of the year, except between October and December.

The taste from the ones available in the supermarket is particularly mild and creamy — reminiscent of milk — therefore, suitable for the whole family.

However, there are also runny Banons and stronger tasting ones. I’ve been eating Banon since 2002 and have never seen those.

In any case, the manufacture involves allowing the cheese to mature for several days then dipping it in eau de vie before wrapping it in sterilised, vinegar-softened chestnut leaves. It further matures for two weeks.

Always look for the yellow and red AOP — Appellation d’Origine Protégée — label for authenticity.

Mine cost €4.50. It was made by the Fromagerie de Banon and distributed by the company Étoile de Provence. It had the AOP label. Incidentally, the Fromagerie de Banon is open to the public on weekday afternoons.

Chef Morgan, who has been to Banon to study the cheese, writes:

Each step, including maturation, is done at a particular temperature. It is the combination of the sweet curd and the tannins from the chestnut leaves which give Banon its “Banon” flavor.

Le pliage du fromage” means folding the cheese. In Provence, goat cheese was historically the primary source of protein in the winter and the farmers needed a way to preserve “surplus cheese” to be consumed in the winter months (later surplus cheese was sold at markets). 

In the autumn when the chestnut leaves fall, the brown leaves (which have a lower tannin content) are collected and stored in a dry place. They are softened by blanching them in boiling water and/or vinegar and then they are drained.  The leaves preserve the cheese and give it its unique flavor.

Also:

the interior of the cheese is soft and gets softer as it matures.

Fromages.com says:

The alcohol protects the cheeses against bad mould and slowly the chestnut leaf aroma influences the cheese’s taste.

The local Banon is runnier — more mature — than the ones I’ve seen:

The farmers of the region eat the cheese by scooping it up with a teaspoon and washing it down with cooled local red or white wine. 

Chef Morgan tells us a bit more about Banon’s history:

Banon, the cheese, is a cheese with character. It has been around since Gallo-Roman times and it is legendarily told that the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius ate so much Banon that he died …

The cheese gained AOC (now AOP) status in 2003:

which guarantees that the goat’s milk is from local goats (goats of the commune of Provence) which have grazed in particular areas in France (it must be one of  31 cantons, 179 municipalities in four departments in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Provence, or Drôme) and that the goat’s milk was produced, manufactured, and ripened in the traditional way. 

Neufchâtel

NeufchatelNeufchâtel is a soft cheese made from cow’s milk, preferably raw. (Some Neufchâtel is made with pasteurised milk, so be sure to read the label.)

I used to think it came from Switzerland, until I saw a French food documentary. I was surprised to learn that it comes from Normandy.

It’s an interesting cheese because it’s runny around the outside with a soft, crumbly centre. I have seen it described as ‘grainy’, which doesn’t do it any justice at all.

Although mild, it has a stronger, more distinctive taste than Banon. It is reminiscent of nuts and mushrooms and is absolutely delicious.

Mine cost €3.70 and was made by Gaec Brianchon in Nesle-Hodeng. It had the AOP label. Alex and Olivier sell the cheese from their farm every day and provide tours by appointment only.

Neufchâtel is a classic cheese, although not as old as Banon. Some accounts say that Neufchâtel dates from the sixth century, others from 1035.

Cheese.com tells us:

The cheese is made in many forms, shapes and sizes – bonde (cylinders), coeur (heart shape), carré (square shape) and briquette (brick shape). Legend goes that French farm girls fell in love with English soldiers during the Hundred Years War and started making heart shaped cheeses to show their love.

Neufchâtel’s AOC (now AOP) status was granted in 1969.

Conclusion

Although I bought these cheeses in France, it is possible that readers living in the US can find them at speciality grocers, such as Trader Joe’s. I bought some French cheese there several years ago, and it was excellent.

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