Artisan Cheese Makers in France
I am looking to spend a few weeks learning how to make cheese in France this summer, with a local artisan cheese maker that makes cheese by hand. The farms I have come across while researching online are generally large operations. It seems as though the local cheese makers don't have much of a web presence (as is expected, I guess). Does anyone have any recommendations/ideas on something that might fit the bill?
We really need a local to discuss this, but I'll wade in to fill the void in the interim. First, you are correct: most of the small producers would not maintain websites. Additionally, I am under the impression that many maintain very low profiles because of the stringent EU regulations on dairy production, allowing small quantities of product for "personal use" but not commercial production without major investment in (usually impractical) production facilities.
Your question might be rephrased: how to connect or gain entree to some of these small farms.
Continuing to reflect on your request, I keep hitting the wall re how to acquire an introduction to a small producer. Language introduces an additional hurdle. I am assuming that you have enough skills to interact in a guest/host/learning situation.
Here is an old link to one dairy that at one time accepted students. You might start by contacting this US tour to see if they will share contact info.
I wasn't aware of those EU regs -- you make a good point. I'd be fine learning from someone who makes small quanitites for "personal use" -- it may even be a better learning experience -- but I understand why they'd maintain low profiles.
I can get by in French, so that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Thanks for that link - I'll be sure to contact them. If you have any other thoughts, let me know!
I remembered that Lyon-based Lucy had written several articles about visiting goat dairies. Maybe one of these... In any event, interesting reading on the subject of small producers. Here is a link to my "goat" search on her blog. http://kitchen-notebook.blogspot.com/... (Scroll down several articles to get to the goats.)
And here is a link to a small goat dairy farm in the Herault well described in Patrick Moon's Arrazat's Aubergines: http://mairie.pagespro-orange.fr/peg....
If you don't get other leads, you could try asking Pascale Baudonnel for advice. She is a French cheese professional who lives in Norway. email address: email@example.com
Most local producers will sell in the their local markets, they don't package the cheese or ship it, nor do most brand it. Thus you often just have a table with the cheeses laid out and sold (not even a stall name). maybe the best approach is to wing-it and head towards a regional centre that has a big weekly market and simply approach the producers and ask if you can spend some time with them. You may be able to see a few that way. This won't work in a big city or town because a lot of the vendors won't be producers, you need a rural area. Also get their early, they don't have a lot of stock, and the goods ones sell out early.
We were in Vaison-la-Romaine (Provence) last year and their market had lots of wonderful small producers, including a memorable fresh cheese that had been in the cow only hours before we purchased it.
I am nor certain I agree with Mangeurs comment on EU regulations. Whilst the regs are made at an EU level they are put into law (statute) at a local level, thus the French implementation and enforcement of EU regs is going to be slightly different to other EU countries. I understood France implemented in such a way to ensure the survival of their localised cheese industry.
France has a program called "Bienvenue a la ferme" where you can visit farms.
Here's one that looks like a very small operation, though I don't understand exactly what you are looking for:
Here is a rather fancy website (including tv interview! and photos) which clearly show making the cheese by hand at this farm:
Dozens, maybe even hundreds of links to small artisinal producers can be found here, though for many you would have to write, call, or e-mail for more info:
Just type in 'fromage' under search criteria, and you could spend days poring over the possibilities.