An Ash Rubbed Cheese

Don’t judge a cheese by its rind. Even if it is blackened with ash and fuzzy with mold. Before the invention of plastic wraps and waxes, creating protective rinds was the best way to preserve freshly made cheese. Wood ash is just one of the countless ways to encourage mold growth on your precious cheese.

Selles-sur-Cher is a 19th century French cheese made from goat’s milk. Its name originates from the town of Selles-sur-Cher. To bear the label, this cheese must be made in the department of Cher, Indre, or Loir-et-Cher. The goats of this region graze the floral grasslands of the Cher valley which gives this cheese its unique quality.

This soft white cheese has a doughy texture that will melt in your mouth. Its odor is light for a goat cheese. The outside is rubbed with a dark wood ash. The end result is a powdery blue-grey puck with its characteristic flat sides and beveled edges.  The thin salted ash rind is trimmed off to taste the soft, slightly nutty flavor within.

 The ripening of this cheese takes a minimum of 10 days and up to 3 weeks in a cellar. The more mature the cheese, the stronger the taste. This cheese is often seen in French cheese buffets for its decorative qualities.

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Génépi: The Traditional Drink of the Alps

Génépi is a high alpine plant. The silver branches of this wormwood are found at elevations above 2,000 meters and are harvested in late July and August.  These aromatic branches are then steeped in pure grain alcohol for forty days. The contents are then filtered and fit for consumption. This drink can be taken straight at room temperature or chilled. It can also be added to coffees or desserts. Génépi filled chocolates can be found throughout the region. Génépi is also a commonly used ingredient in a Grolle.

Making Genepi

Making Genepi

The taste is unmistakable and unique in itself. The closed taste comparable to génépi is perhaps chamomile paired with a freshness reminiscent of spearmint. Before it became a pick-me-up for skiiers, this drink was believed to have medicinal qualities. A deep inhale of this brew will certainly clear your sinuses.

A mature bottle of génépi varies from light gold to light green. Many commercial varieties are a bright green due to added food coloring. Génépi is available at most bars, restaurants, and markets in the French/Italian/Swiss Alps. Most local families have their own special place for collecting génépi. This plant only flowers once a year and, like most high alpine plants, it does not survive well in high traffic, overpicked locations. So do not expect any locals to give up the location of their génépi spots. And if you ask a local how to make génépi, they will simply say forty-forty-forty.

40/40/40 Savoyard

40 branches of génépi

40 grams of sugar

40 days of steeping

In a liter of pure grain alcohol

The composition of this drink is comparable to absinthe. You’ve been warned.

French Alps

French Alps