Fine rain. A healthy grey Sunday rain. The trees are plump with many shades of green. A spring day of laziness. The house smells of the fresh whole wheat bread I made in anticipation of buying some fresh goat cheese.
Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-Francois in Laval. Close. Along the 440 east past every possible chain restaurant, store, bank you can think of, then off onto highway 25 and suddenly one finds oneself on Milles-Iles road in a semi rural, semi wealthy, farmland slash suburban slash small town community. I pull into the fromagerie, a small little building among houses, a bike path, tress. I could bike here. The 39km diet.
Suzanne Latour, the owner, tells me that she never did a stage or studies with a master for cheese making. It was mostly trial and error. Back in 1996 when she began the fromagerie the MAPAQ did not require you to take a course. It was a lot less regulated. Now is not the same, as everyone is now obliged to have certification if one wants to continue. Probably a good thing within reason. Before 1996 she only sold milk, and made fresh cheese and yogurt for family consumption. When it came to refining a few of her cheeses she turned to some students from Institut Technologique et Agroalimentaire de St-Hyacinthe where she herself had graduated. 'I guess one has to be a little crazy' she tells me. Yup, especially since neither her mother nor her father owned a farm. Real trial and error.
Fleur de neige-a goat feta, in brine, not too salty, hints of hazelnuts and almonds.
Samuel and Jérémi (the names of her two boys)-kind of a goat cheddar, very mild with a soft texture.
Sieur Colomban-goat aged in a wax coating (like a gouda). Mine is dated the 5th of Jan 2010. Creamy texture, almonds, smell of butter, subtly herbal.
Le Lavallois-soft, ripened Camembert style, creamy center, scent of moist underbrush, mushrooms, autumn leaves.
Ti-lou-a slightly ripened cheese, lightly salty, buttery. Good toasted on croutons.
Le petit prince-soft fresh non-ripened cheese, great on home made toasted whole wheat bread. Creamy, fresh acidity.
fresh whole wheat bread (adapted and interpreted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)
160g bread flour
140g whole wheat flour
2g instant yeast
380g tepid water
300g bread flour
2g yeast mix dump on top of part one and cover.
Leave to ferment for 2-4 hours. This develops the taste we love in a good bread.
add 10 grams of salt and knead together for 5 minutes, shape into a ball. Cover (I leave the ball in a metal bowl and cover it will a plate.) Let rise in a warm place for an hour. Should double in size. Deflate, fold as if folding a dishtowel, remake a ball, cover and let rise for another hour. Deflate again. Fold dishtowel style and roll it creating a sort of log that you place in a prepared bread pan.
Cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. Heat the over to 425F. Mist the bread with water, toss in the oven on a baking stone. (Throwing a cup of ice in a hot pan which is already in the over helps), or you can mist the bread and the baking stone a few times. Cook for 10 minutes until a little golden then turn the oven down to 350F and cook for 30 minutes. Invert bread onto a cooling rack and eat immediately while crunchy and warm. Or save it for fresh goat cheese and ice cider!
I began to wonder about what it meant to be an artisan. Suzanne is happy with the size of her business. A small family farm, a business which sells about 60% of their products at the cheese counter. When I think of all those chain restaurants not far from here lining the highways and boulevards of Laval and Montréal, being here suddenly makes sense. And artisans, like talent, and like individuals, vary. Because that is what an artisan is, the expression of a human individual, the personality which finds itself doing what he or she does, not simply as a job, but as a way of life.
Nonetheless, someone would say, what the fuck man, it`s Laval! Well maybe so but short of grazing your heard in a children's park in Montréal it does not get any more local than this. Thank god for people who are a little crazy.