Photo credit : Chaource Cheese Syndicate

 

The Chaource comes from a "cheese land", located in southern Champagne whose fruits have enjoyed for centuries a fame without fault. Because the Chaource, today symbol of the regional gastronomy, was produced alongside other cheeses : Ervy, Barberey (or Troyes) cheese, Soumaintrain, Saint Florentin and Les Riceys cheese. Each bears the name of the market towns where they were sold. Such concentration of cheese on such a small space has often led observers to confuse them, as is the case with Ervy or Chaource.

If we can assume them older, the evidence of a cheese making in Chaource date from 1513. These products then served as currency and payment of taxes for the inhabitants, as indicated by a lease of property and income Abbey of Molesmes which stipulates the payment of "two cheeses good for the use of Ervyrois".

At that time, only the monks had the meadows and woods needed to feed cattle and produce milk and cheese. This activity was organized within farms, called "barns", founded by the monks of the abbeys of Pontigny, Jully-sur-Sarce or Molesmes ... There were farmers, drovers, milkmen to perform the works.

Structures of this type were numerous in Champagne Humidein the Pays d'Othe, or the Barséquanais. The monks thus contributed to the development of breeding and the dissemination of the first cheese processing techniques.

Farm activity was based on mixed farming, breeding is reduced to a few animals. Very few peasants had land to do "fielding", that is, grazing their cattle. Religious and lords, however, granted them rights of use in their woods and forests to meet the needs of animals. Thus in 1270, the Count Thibaud V confirmed his men of Chaource and Metz-Robert in their right of use in his Chaource woods.

If the empty food began to disappear from the French Revolution, she remained present in some communes as Metz-Robert and Auxon until the Second World War. The development of the parks, the lack of manpower and the electric fences were the reason for this practice.e.

Hitherto intended for family consumption, milk production developed during the 19th century. This boom benefited jointly from the emergence of an urban demand, on Paris and Troyes under the effect of hosiery, and the introduction of a set of innovative breeding techniques.

In terms of feeding herds, artificial grasslands and fodder beets complement natural meadows and pastures. From 1850, the use of fodder beet supplemented the hay given in winter.

As for animals, the first attempts to improve breeds date from the middle of the century with the introduction of Norman cows or "Swiss" more dairy-oriented, herds then not being specialized.

At that time, each farm had 3 to 4 cows, and a pig that was fattened with whey. Dairy farming and cheese making was then the preserve of women. Larger quantities of milk enabled them to produce more cheese for sale in local markets. There were also street vendors called "cossoniers", who collected farmhouse cheeses on farms for resale on nearby markets.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the territory saw the emergence of private dairies. In 1920, there were about a hundred the departments of Aube and Yonne. Like the dairies that have developed in the neighboring departments of the Meuse and Haute-MarneCheese type is produced Coulommiers, Brie or Camembert, whose cheese-making know-how are widely prevalent at the time unlike to "country cheeses". The production of cheese in farms nevertheless remained in the Chaourçois until the 1950s. The cheese then retained a predominant place in the diet to be eaten fresh or sometimes drier.

The manufacture of cheese being restrictive, the farmers preferred to deliver the milk to the dairy. Faced with this shortage of cheese, some "coconut growers" then started manufacturing : the merchants were made cheese makers. The most famous of them, Georges Hugerot, whose name has remained in all memoriesset up a small dairy in Maisons-les-Chaource in 1936. By baptizing his forming "The real Chaource", Hugerot and many others later asserted themselves as guarantors of tradition. In the early 60s, the cheese-maker had definitively taken over from the farmers.

The years 60-70 were those of the codification of cheese making processes. Cheese makers seek to produce a Chaource of ever more consistent quality. Consumers now bought their cheese in the supermarket. Cheese production and marketing had changed in scale.

The small dairies who could not follow these technical evolutions or lack of succession, ceased their activity. The introduction of milk quotas in 1984 was an additional element of change as a number of operators withdrew.

Today, the Chaource cheese tradition continues with 5 operators, including a craftsman and a farmer, who produce 1,800 tonnes of Chaource each year.

 

 

Photo credit : Othe-Armance Tourist Office

 

 

Photo credit : Chaource Cheese Syndicate

 

Photo credit : M. Vogel