Cheese Production in the Center of Old Paris

In Canada, dairy products are a staple for many people—especially during tough winters in the Yukon. While the Klondike Valley Creamery, in Dawson City, is making delicious cow’s milk cheeses, all year-round, the production is not so developed in Whitehorse.

Traveling to the French capital, Paris, for a week, I expect lots of fancy cheese and bread tastings. But, like in the Yukon, most dairy products are not produced in the big city … well, there are a couple of exceptions.

A dairy plant revived – in a big city

In the popular eighteenth arrondissement, Laiterie La Chapelle is producing cheese right in the Paris city center, a first after the closure of the last dairy back in the twentieth century. I am intrigued by the concept, and head to the dairy.

Coming out of the tube (subway), in the neighbourhood, the kids are playing on the road, pedestrians are crossing the narrow streets without caring much about crosswalks, small Europeans cars are honking at them—it is wild, but not the Yukon way!

Arriving in front of the shop, the agitation stops. The team offers us a glimpse of the discreet world of cheesemaking. Through large windows, one can observe the makers all dressed in white, from cap to boots, producing and maturing the dairy products. This place is serene and already feels quite special in the effervescence of Paris.

As I step in, I meet with the owner, Paul Zindy, who started the company four years ago. The purpose of his dairy is very clear: producing local cheeses and dairy products, with local milk, for local people.

Twice a week the team swaps their bicycle for a dairy truck, to pick up cow’s milk at Ferme de Launay, a farm 35 kilometres north of Paris. Paying the farmer almost twice the milk’s market price is the conviction of a sustainable economic and social model for Zindy and his associate Olivier Arthur. All of the products are then produced in their plant and sold directly to customers, reducing transportation CO2 emissions.

The team offers some samples to the clients. Everyone loves it. I got some six-month matured tomme—full of flavour and melting in the mouth—my favourite. I can’t help but buy some, along with some fresh cheese.

Cheese – an intimidating product?

Eaten at lunchtime or (and!) at supper, after the main meal with a slice of sourdough bread, cheese is part of the food tradition in this country.

A difference that French tend to cultivate with Canadians is the relationship with bacteria. I am talking about raw milk compared to pasteurized milk. The raw milk comes directly from the udders of the ruminant and is then refrigerated before being transformed. Raw-milk cheese will develop more-complex flavours—not necessarily stronger ones.

Pasteurized milk is heated at a high temperature, to kill all bacteria. In Canada, raw milk is illegal but it is possible to consume raw-milk cheese that has been ripened for a minimum of two months.

While artisan cheese might sound posh, it is actually a fairly simple product. Think about milk without water. By taking out the water and keeping the solids (fats, proteins, etc.), milk lasts longer than a few days. The more water left in the cheese, the softer it is. The drier the cheese, the longer it will keep.

Rennet, traditionally made from the stomach lining of young ruminants, is what transforms milk into curd—into cheese (the solid) and whey (the liquid). A very small quantity of rennet is incorporated into warm milk, becoming curd. Once the cheese is made, it needs to be salted … and that’s it for a simple, fresh cheese!

Just four ingredients—milk, rennet, salt, and time to mature—quite different from the industrial cheeses, found in supermarkets, where the list of ingredients goes on.

Cheese – but not only cheese!

Paul, Olivier, Sarah, Valentin and Marc-Aurel, of La Laiterie (a dairy business), are producing a wide cheese selection: tomme, blue, raclette, ricotta and many more.

The aspects and colours will change with the season. When the cows are eating hay and resting inside the barn, during winter, the milk is whiter, while turning almost yellow in the spring, when the “girls” are enjoying the beta carotene from the grass outside in the sunshine.

Beyond cheese, they create an intriguing selection of yogurt and milky desserts. The yogurt might be infused with verbena or stirred with lemon, pumpkin or raspberry jam, according to the season. And for our guilty pleasure, they make a fantastic chocolate cream and a vanilla rice pudding! You can find, below, a creamy rice pudding recipe to try at home. Enjoy!

Vanilla Rice Pudding

Ingredients

4 cups (1 litre) whole milk

1/3 tsp (1 g) ground vanilla (cinnamon works well too)

2/3 cup (140 g) round rice

1/3 cup (60 g) sugar

Method

In a pot, bring milk to boil on the hob (burner).

Add the sugar and vanilla and let them simmer for 40 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the rice and let it cook at a gentle heat, for another hour. Check regularly, so the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pot.

When it is well-cooked and creamy, turn off the hob (burner) and transfer the dessert into a container. Let it cool slightly and it is ready to eat.

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