St Agur was recently a top cheese on Top Chef!
The blue cheese's irresistibly rich flavor and creamy texture was apparent to a team of
chefs participating in a recent episode of the cooking show. Chosen by a chef who specializes in reinterpreting classic French dishes, the St. Agur was served with an assortment including cooked fruits and chocolate.
The robust yet smooth blue cheese shined on the elegant and modern cheese plate. Chef Brooke Williamson served the cheese whipped, according to Bravo's website, giving it an extravagantly silky texture. As part of a cheese plate filled with contrasting sweet flavors, St. Agur's delicate yet sharp flavor is even more delicious. Count celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse a fan - "I love the cheese," he said.
St. Agur (pronounced Sant ah-GOOR), easily recognizable by its octagonal shape, is made from pasteurized cow's milk in the village of Monts du Velay. It entices you with its naked butteriness and delicate sharpness. It contains 60% butter cream, thus qualifying it also as a double-cream cheese. In other words, every bite is sinful. Mild in flavor and not too salty in comparison to other blues, St. Agur appeals to many palettes. Due to its creaminess, it melts and spreads easily. Put a thin slice in your salad or burger or spread it on fresh baguette. It also melts quickly in sauces. Serve with Chardonnay, Syrah, Port, or Vouvray Moelleux.
Made form rich cow's milk, St Agur offers an alliance between a rich, blue cheese flavor and a creamy, smooth texture. It not only promises the pleasures of a strong cheese, but it also melts away in the mouth. Not as salty as more traditional blue cheese, its tangy and creamy nature is well-balanced. Each day, 132,000 gallons of milk are collected from a select group of farmers for its production. 4-5 gallons of milk are needed to make a St. Agur cheese, weighing in general 4-5 lbs. St. Agur is very rich in calcium, protein, and minerals. Delivered in octagonal cylinders, and without a rind, it's it easy to cut into wedges. It is a refined treat that's sure to please anyone. No wonder that it received the Bronz medal in the Concour General Agricole (General Agricultural Contest) in 2000 and was also elected "the Flavor of the year" both in 2000 and 2001.
Saint Agur is expertly crafted in the traditional methods of the Haute Loire region. Saint Agur was born in the volcanic region of Mont de Valey in 1988, (created by the Bongrain group) and is produced in the Beauzac factory, which has built its experience, know-how and reputation through its history.
Saint Agur is developed based on a traditional method of French blue veined cheese. Following pasteurisation, the milk is heated to 90°F, sowed with starter cultures and rennet in order to acquire the curdling. As soon as it achieves the desired consistency, the curd is drained off, broken up and put into its octagonal mould. Crumbling plays an essential role for a successful inoculation of the penicillium in the curd's structure. These are in effect the spores from this microscopic mushroom, which, by developing themselves, will produce the internal moulds, so characteristic of blue cheeses. Saint Agur is sowed with the penicillium roqueforti. Next, the fresh cheese is removed from the mould, then salted with coarse salt by hand, gradually for 6 days. Placed on a rack, the cheese is taken to the drying shed, a very humid maturing premise, maintained at a constant temperature ranging between 50 and 54°F. During maturing, the cheese is "pierced" at least three times in order to ensure the development of the blue color at the centre of the cheese. The maturing of Saint Agur lasts for approximately 80 days. At the end of this period, the cheese is packaged in aluminum paper, which preserves all its qualities, and allows for a "slow maturing" during the whole journey from the cheese dairy to your table.
An Artisinal Blue Veined Cheese, ultra smooth with true Blue character
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.
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
The General Agricultural Competition
Since its inception in 1870, each year, as part of the International Agricultural Exhibition, the General Agricultural Competition aims to select and award the best traditional French products and the best bred stock. Because it is controlled by the state and follows a rigorous screening and selection process, the Gene General Agricultural Competition is known for its impartiality and for the validity of the results.
An ambassador of the affluence and quality of French heritage
Recognized and widely publicized, the General Agricultural Competition is a unique platform for local produce, dairy, wine, and a demonstration of the excellence of French genetics. For the candidates, participation in the General Agricultural Competition, legitimizes them professionally, as well as, to the general public.