Created by master cheese makers at the Beauzac cheese dairy in Velay, Saint Agur cheese perfectly blends the powerful taste of blue cheese with the gentleness of creamy cheese. Cheese makers worked on the production and ripening of Saint Agur for several years to refine its unique, palette pleasing taste. To better understand the mysteries of Saint Agur, we met with master cheese maker Pascal Véron and Annabel Mathon, product manager for St. Agur cheese.Pascal, as a master cheese maker, can you explain to us the basic principles of cheese ripening?
Ripening is the period when we let the cheese mature in the cheese cellar. During this time, the cheese paste develops its specific characteristics and acquires its taste, texture and aroma. Each stage in the production of cheese has its importance. I often compare cheese-making to the making of a great wine. There’s the harvest, the blending and the filling of the barrels, where the wine matures. This last step corresponds to the ripening of cheese.What is it about the ripening of Saint Agur that makes this cheese so unique?
Once the Saint Agur is made, it is ripened in the cellars at very specific temperatures and hygrometry.* During the ripening period, the master cheese makers regularly check the cheese with a probe to verify the level of maturation, the development of the blue molds, and the texture. This allows us to package the cheese at the optimal point in the ripening process. The cheeses also undergo several “piercings” during ripening, a procedure that is essential to eliminate gases within the cheeses and to carry oxygen to the mold. It’s important to understand that the molds we are working on are living micro-organisms. Our role during the ripening is to orchestrate all this microbial life, and it’s our management of this that gives Saint Agur cheese its texture and very distinctive taste.
Our packaging facilitates continued ripening until the product reaches your cheese platter. At that point, Saint Agur will have had three months of loving care and attention from the cheese makers.
Blue-veined cheeses were actually the subject of numerous criticisms - too dry, too crumbly, too salty or too strongly flavored. Master cheese makers at Beauzac decided to accept the challenge and create a blue cheese with a good strong flavor – but also would melt in your mouth.
After years of passion, research, trials and tests, they found a blue that combines a creamy texture with the subtle taste of a fruity blue, with notes that are almost sweet. Today, it’s this unexpected combination of strength and creaminess that makes Saint Agur such a huge success.
This outstanding product is well-liked by blue cheese fans who enjoy the contrast of a strong taste with a soft texture. They like to have it with a piece of good bread at the end of a meal. It’s often a family favorite and is ideal for sauces and quiches. Small chunks of Saint Agur also make an excellent addition to salads.
To keep our consumers happy, we subject our products to weekly evaluations by a jury of experts, which guarantees impeccable quality and a consistent taste and texture. All this meticulous attention to detail has paid off. Saint Agur cheese was awarded the silver medal at the Concours Général Agricole 2009. The crème de St. Agur won the gold medal.
* Hygrometry: the science of determining the degree of humidity in the air
Interview by Anne Inquimbert
Translated from the French sister site: quiveutdufromage.com