Until the 1960s the sellers of Brousse du Rove cheese would walk through the streets of Marseille shouting “Lei brousso dou Rouvé!” in Provencal dialect to attract customers for their fresh cheeses.
Traditionally prepared using milk from the Rove goat, a rustic breed well suited to the dry hills of the Provencal interior, Brousse du Rove is a fresh unsalted cheese with soft crumbly paste. It is made by heating goat milk to 90°, not letting it cool beyond 70°.
A little alcohol vinegar is then sprinkled in and after a few seconds of thorough stirring, the mass coagulates. The fresh cheese is ladled into small conical containers and sold at markets, in local restaurants or to purchaser groups. It can be consumed for 4 or 5 days after production: its intensity and persistence are truly extraordinary for such a fresh cheese.
Brousse du Rove is now a victim of its fame and in the last years shops have sold versions of Brousse prepared using milk from other goat breeds and sometimes even cow’s milk. But in the area around Le Rove, from where the goat and the cheese get their name, a small resistance movement has formed to defend the original Brousse cheese.
In spring 2007, eight local shepherds decided to embark on the demanding process to obtain Registered Designation of Origin PDO status to protect their product.
The first step in drawing up production rules involved work to define the production area: from the small town of Le Rove it extends to the dry areas of the Bouches du Rhone pastures, the south Vaucluse and the western border of Var.
Establishing this boundary is important, because the distinctive flavor of the cheese is due to two factors:
• the characteristics of the breed: Rove goats do not produce much milk (from 250 to 400 liters per goat per year), but have a good yield of cheese (200 grams of cheese per liter);
• the diet of the goats: in scrubby countryside the goats eat tough plants—scorpion broom (Genista scorpius) and kermes oak (Quercus coccifera)—which give the cheese a distinctive flavor.
The rules will stipulate that Brousse must exclusively use raw milk from Rove goats left out to pasture for at least 6 hours a day throughout the year. This will provide a guarantee that the cheese is closely linked to its area and maintains its distinctive flavor. The producers obtained the PDO in 2020: the smallest PDO of France.
Slow Food has helped producers to raise awareness among consumers (especially in regards to the existence of imitation Brousse du Rove), and to better inform relevant institutions about the complex situation facing Brousse du Rove cheese.
Bouches-du-Rhône, southern Vaucluse and western Var Departments, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region
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