Looking like something out of a Boris Karloff flick… “Brain!!!!” these little Bijou are diminutive, briefly-aged goat milk “crottin” from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. I find them to be among the most consistent and rewarding of goat cheese made in America. The taste of fresh milk, tangy and sweet… a little bit of fresh, yeasty bread about them with a fudgy texture that softens the more the cheese progresses from a young week-old to full maturity around 30 days. Personally, I like them on the young side, more dense, less runny.
That saggy, Shar Pei-esque “brainy rind”, technically a geotrichum rind, is the natural result of adding geotrichum candidum to the milk. It de-acidifies the milk and creates a great environment for mold and yeast to do their thing. While you might not find the talk of molds, yeasts, acids and the resulting little brain appetizing, I assure you, this is a little cheese jewel, just like its name. Be sure to click twice on the photos for something resembling the view through an electron microscope.
Bijou is wonderful just cut up and popped in your mouth, plain. But it’s also a wonderful cheese served up in summer salads with berries, spread on broiled crostini drizzled in oil or honey… the applications are endless with this one. While no great artisan cheese is inexpensive, depending on where you buy it, each little cheese works out to be anywhere from $4 to $6 each. It’s a little steep for ~3 oz of cheese but it is soooo tasty!
Vermont Creamery is one of the earliest and best success stories in the American artisan/farmstead movement. Started in 1984 with just a few thousand dollars, today founders Allison Hooper and Bob Reese’s cheeses are readily found nationwide and have won more than 100 awards. Along with Bijou, seek out their Bonne Bouche, Cremont, Coupole and even their fromage blanc, crème fraîche and quark. All beautifully made, and wonderfully consistent. Vermont Creamery recommend Gewürztraminer or Belgian Tripel with Bijou. Age will matter, of the cheese that is: older Bijou becomes sharper and more acidic, so while a young Bijou might balance with a light Vernaccia, I fear a sharp, tangy version would crush such a wine. Let me know what you pair with it in the comments below!
Where: Websterville, VT
Milk Type: goat (pasteurized)
Format: this is the smaller “crottin” – 2 cheeses per pack, ~2-3oz ea
Tasting notes: fresh, clean & tangy, yeasty, sharper with more age