La Jonchée– is a culinary specialty of Saintonge, north of the Charente- Maritime and south of Deux-Sèvres. (It is also made on Ile d’Oléron and near Rochefort.) A delicacy during the Middle Ages, la jonchée is a rare find today. There are fewer artisans creating the interesting, delicate, treat.
La Jonchée is a fresh cheese made from the curds of cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk…depending on the region. The curds are placed in a cylinder, made of soaked bulrush mats, about 20 cm long. The curds are strained through the mat which is then rolled and tied at each end. Wild artichoke flower and bay leaf water season the curds. The cheese is eaten very quickly after its manufacture as the risk for becoming bitter is high. This cheese is very white in color, soft and moist, quite fragile, and can be slightly gelatinous in texture.
Often eaten as a dessert, la Jonchée can be sweetened with orange blossom water, laurel water, sugar, or my favorite, almond water. It was heavenly, silky, delicious! Cognac, coffee, and Pineau des Charentes may also be used to enhance the flavor. This specialty may also be served as an aperitif.
There are only a few producers of this traditional cheese that remain, selling their product at local markets or “marches”. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to try this delicacy when I was in Saint-Georges-de-Didonne. There is a local producer who makes her jonchée and brings it to the daily marché. You can’t get any fresher that that!