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Chevrotin has been produced since the 17th century in the Alpine foothills of the Savoyard Chablais, Bauges and Aravis districts. The landscape presents difficulties to agriculture, with steep gradients, a damp climate and a thin limestone based soil that supports a restricted vegetation. The only domesticated animals that can feed here are goats: these are also able to move around with the same sure-footedness as the chamois who live nearer the mountain peaks. Chevrotin is made from filtered but unpasteurized goat’s milk.
The cheese is a fresh one, with only a brief maturation period. Production tends to be a small-scale artisanal process. At a minimum, it needs three weeks to ripen: this takes place on pine timber shelves, and during ripening time each cheese is turned and washed with brine three times per week.
A cheese takes the form of a flattened cylinder, with a diameter of 9 – 12 cm and a thickness of 3 – 4½ cm. It generally weighs 250 - 350 g. Chevrotin features a “fine croûte blanche rosée“ coating of soft reddish-brown, not unlike the rind of such better known cheeses as Munster. Chevrotin appears similar to Reblochon which is made in the same regions of Savoy, applying similar processes, but which is produced lower down the valleys using cow’s milk.
The cheese has a full flavour with an aromatic sourness reminiscent of the wild herbs included in the spring and summer diets of the mountain goats. Chevrotin is particularly suitable for eating with bread at breakfast, and also deserves a prominent place on the cheese-board at the end of a main meal. The best season during which to eat chevrotin is generally between May and September, approximately five weeks after manufacture, but it can be enjoyed any time between April and November.
(During the winter months the goats are housed in sheds and their diet of hay does not produce the subtle herb based flavour for which enthusiasts value chevrotin.)