Yes, I know I keep saying I’m going to do Boursin next, but Rors came out with a joke the other day on seeing some Petit Suisses in the fridge. Here it is:
Comment fait-on les petits suisses ?
It doesn’t quite translate exactly since it’s playing on words and relies on the way the French refer to other nationalities. Rors was slightly embarrassed when I asked him to repeat it and said it was a bit rude. It’s not really!
How do you make a little Swiss (implying the cheese but meaning a person)? The same way you make a little French (person)!
So, it’s Petit Suisse cheese this week. Petit Suisse is in the family of soft cheeses. It’s fromage frais i.e. an unripe, non-salted creamy cheese. It’s made from cow’s milk and a generous dollop of cream is added during the process so it’s very high fat, up to 40%. But it’s delicious!
I dare say you’re familiar with this little cylindrical, white cheese, usually sold in 60g size, although sometimes twice that, in a plastic pot and perplexingly wrapped in paper. This strange practice dates back to when they were individually wrapped in a piece of waxed paper to hold them in shape and sold in lots of six in a small wooden box. They don’t really need the paper any more now they’re sold in pots, but it’s a tradition that’s hung on. The bits of paper can be a pain since the cheese tends to stick to them, and in our house the cats fish them out of the bin any time they manage to invade the kitchen, chew them up then spit them out on the floor. Yuk.
Petit Suisse aren’t Swiss – they originated in Normandy – but they were thought up by a Swiss person who worked at a dairy in Auvilliers. He suggested adding cream to the curd they used for cheese to make it richer, and so the whole thing began.But only because a chef’s assistant, Henri Gervais, took a shine to the product and begun to use it. He was the key to its success and built a business around it. The Gervais company sent their cheese to Paris by horse-drawn cart every day. Nowadays, Gervais Petit Suisses are still going strong and are distributed worldwide by slightly more efficient but less environmentally friendly means! Gervais is part of the Bel group.
French people tend to deluge Petit Suisses in sugar to eat them, but I like them as they are. They’re said to be nice with a touch of salt of pepper or a sprinkle of herbs over too. Petit Suisse mixed with mustard makes a tasty coating to meat while it’s cooking and stops it drying out.
It’s very easy to make and easiest of all is if you can get unpasteurised milk. This isn’t a problem in France where you find it in vending machines. You leave a bowl of the raw milk out of the fridge overnight and it should have curdled i.e. set, by morning. Then wrap it in muslin and let it drain for a while so all the whey drips out. Unwrap the cheese, stir in a few spoonfuls of cream and enjoy. If you can only get pasteurised milk, then you need to add some buttermilk or a spoonful of yogurt or other fermented milk product to get the curdling process started. Apart from that, the method is the same. I haven’t made any yet, but now I’ve found these recipes, I shall be. I’m very partial to Petit Suisse.
Finally a question: in which book do you find a character names Petisuix? Answers please!