… in white sabots.
As with every new venture that has a high level of responsibility, there is an odd mixture of the ‘excitement’ that often accompanies learning and ‘alertness’. It is not stress, just a desire to do everything well and to be able to assimilate and maîtrise (master) information and processes quickly. After three mornings watching how the fromagerie functions for the beginning of the season, I will be on my own tomorrow, aided by the notes I have taken and lightly armed with ‘La fabrication du fromage de chèvre fermier’ (a book by J.C. Le Jaouen).
It is a new routine that will soon become second nature, just as my new shoes will mould to my feet with use: turn the rounds drying on the table de l’affinage 45°; unmould the batch from the day before (le démoulage), rack and salt (le salage); wash all moulds and tables; measure the acidity of the basin that has set overnight (la coagulation), record, and ladle in layers into moulds, topping them up as they drain (le moulage and l’égouttage); heat the milk that comes in a 20l metal can from the milking shed, if necessary, check ph and add active enzymes (l’emprésurage) for the ‘caillage’ process; clean everything immaculately (even the cobwebs on the entrance rafters) and take out the ‘petit-lait’ (le lactosérum ou sérum) for the pigs.
As production increases (at the moment mothers are feeding their young, 10-15l of milk per day will become 120l), my role will be juggling the space and clients, but for now I have time to take it all in – starting out on foot, up the mountain road, surrounded by birds heralding the new day…
I should note that everything is conducted in French. After three years of integration I am able to function ‘colloquially and technically’ – essential here as it is rare to meet anyone who speaks English. There are also regional differences, and the ‘terroir’ and production method creates the peculiarities that are associated with each appellation. We are under the umbrella of ‘Pyrénées’ for tommes that are produced in the mountains, ‘formagets or mató’, describing goat’s cheeses from ‘Catalogne française’, the Pyrénées-Orientales and Espagne used for mel i mató, and the more general category of ‘lactique’ for the round flat cheeses that are popular in local markets.