| Pouligny Saint Pierre. Photo: Vincent M, Flickr
Those interested in the aesthetics of chèvres that come in striking shapes and sizes will certainly be seduced by Pouligny Saint Pierre, a classic French goat's milk cheese shaped like a pyramid. Hailing from the region of Berry, close to the renowned châteaux of the Loire valley, this cheese has a distinctive floral aroma and grassy, nutty taste.
When it comes to French goat's milk cheeses like Pouligny Saint Pierre (and many others like Valençay) there are key differences in flavor and texture between ones imported to the United States and those eaten in France. In the United States, Pouligny Saint Pierre is sold fresh and has almost no rind, giving it a mild, fresh taste and cakey yet creamy texture. In France, however, because the cheese is made with raw milk and is aged to various degrees by affineurs, it comes in many more varieties.
Thanks to the moldy rind (that can and should be eaten) developed from the affinage (aging), flavors of the Pouligny St. Pierre in France are at times reminiscent of walnuts, chestnuts and sometimes even of wildflowers. When customers enter cheese shops in Paris, they can choose their Pouligny Saint Pierre according to its age.
If in France when shopping for this cheese, talk to the cheesemonger not just about the degree of pungency but also the texture. For those of you looking for a nuttier Pouligny Saint Pierre, ask for one that's been aged longer and is more sec (French for "dry"). Ones that have been aged not as long can still be nutty and even creamy on the inside. These ones are demi-sec (French for "partially dry"). And as tempting as it can be (since, many times, the cheeses are displayed on easily accessible shelves), remember not to touch the cheeses.
In the U.S., Pouligny Saint Pierre remains a popular young cheese accessible to even the most timid palates, but fromage lovers visiting France would be doing themselves a great disservice to not try all the varieties. After all, it's cheeses like this one that have inspired many of our own American cheesemakers to produce goat's milk cheeses, like similarly-shaped Mont Vivant from Rainbeau Ridge farm in New York.
Besides, how can you say non to a cheese shaped like a pyramid?