All things cheese in France

Monday, 21 June 2010


And just so we complete the family tree, if Pélardon and Rocamadour are cousins, Pérail is a not too distant 2nd cousin !  They all come from the same region in France, les Causses, but the difference being Pérail is made with ewe's (brebis) milk instead of goat's (chèvre) milkWhich of these came first is hard to say. The term Pérail appears in the XIXth century when it is cited in the Occitan dictionary by Fréderic Mistral and then by the etymologist Alibert who identified the term “péral” meaning “a drainer or colander made of stone”, as appearing in the Occitan language IXth century.

It's at the beginning of the XIVth century that the most likely ancestor of the Pérail can be found described in a document for the table service of the convent of the Notre Dame de l'Espinasse in Millau. It is surely this cheese, which  for centuries has been produced from sheep's milk left to rest in goatskin bottles called “toupines” where it curdled spontaneously, that we  now see produced today by small, artisanal producers and a few small manufacturers. Threatened with extinction, this cheese has its defenders.  The Association for the Defence and promotion of Pérail was formed in 1994 by farm producers, artisan cheese makers and milk producer to guarantee the cheese of the terroir would not pass into obscurity. Since 1996, the organization has applied to the INAO for AOC status and a first study is in process to establish the parameters required for the cheese to obtain AOC status. 

The Pérail is produced as a way of eliminating wastage in the fabrication of Roquefort. It is made from the milk from the Lacaune sheep that graze on the chalky plateaus of the Larzac in the Grand Causses at the end of the lactation period. The milk is less abundant but much richer making the Pérail very creamy. As the cheeses age on rush or rye straw, they develop a strong taste yet which is a much more subtle flavour for sheep’s cheese. This cheese is neither cooked nor pressed. It is pale yellow with a soft rind and a thick creamy texture and is best when it is runny. The aging is a minimum of eight days but the cheese can be eaten fresh within three or four days after fabrication. The runny characteristic appears after about 14 days of aging and it melts in your mouth.

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