An incredibly rare cheese: Bleu de Termignon
What you are looking at in the photo above is the Hope diamond of french cheeses (not that if you eat it you become cursed, but because it’s REALLY unique). Bleu de Termignon is incredibly rare. It is made by only four cheese-makers in the whole of France, who have herds of cows that number no more than 60 animals in each herd. Are you impressed yet? I’m sure each cow has a name! You could probably find out that this piece of Bleu de Termignon was made from the milk of Daisy, Bossy, Marigold and Jezebel if you go talk to the farmers. Just for the record, Jezebel was a real house-cow we had when I was little, who ate the flowers in our garden and gave us fresh milk in exchange.
Meet the cows who make the cheese
The cows who donate their milk for this cheese graze above 23oo metres (7500 feet); only in the Summer months of course, as in the Winter, their fields are covered in snow. This makes the Bleu de Termignon seasonal. About a hundred rounds of the cheese are made between mid-June and the end of September. After milk from the two milkings (from two successive days) has been mixed together, it is salted and left in wooden buckets to set. After 15 days, it is moved to a special cellar to begin its “blue” process, which takes about 4 to 8 months. The difference between the Bleu de Termignon and other blue cheeses such as Roquefort and Gorgonzola is that the mold you see in the cheese is entirely naturally formed, rather than being inoculated into the cheese. For this reason you can get a bleu de Termignon that isn’t “bleu” at all!
Where does Bleu de Termignon come from?
Bleu de Termignon comes from farmers who live in a small cluster of houses in the mountains inside the Vanoise Natural Park, in the Savoy region in the East of France. Are they related? I don’t know, but I’d love to find out! Coincidentally, it is not far from where a few of the other cheeses I’ve written about already are from: Mont d’Or , Comté and Reblochon . It makes me think that I should go for a holiday around that part of France one of these days and maybe meet some of the cows in person. In fact, it is not far from the Susa Valley the North-West of Italy, where I’ve taken you before for a walk to Hell. A few years ago, we hiked up a valley to a lake high in the mountains. I’ve just realized that we were looking at the other side of the mountain (like the bear in the song) from where this cheese is made. In the photo below, you can see the mountain home of the cows who make Bleu de Termignon.
The cheese has a crumbly texture and is surprisingly mild in taste. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to taste much of it as I brought it out when we had cheese-loving visitors over and most of it disappeared. Oh well, that gives me an excuse to buy some more, if I can find any……
By Lisa Watson