On the discovery of Mont d’Or cheese
This year for the first time, I had a dairy revelation when I took a mouthful of melted Mont d’Or cheese. Mont d’Or has to be one of the most addictively delicious cheeses I’ve ever eaten! You can eat it straight out of its wooden box with a spoon if it’s really mature; or even better, you can bathe it in white wine and lavishly sprinkle it with cracked black pepper, then throw it in the oven. The melted, gooey goodness that comes out can be poured over potatoes and prosciutto, or you can simply tear off bits of crusty bread and dip them straight into the cheese, then try to get it into your mouth before it drips all over you. Are you drooling yet? I am!
The history of Mont d’Or cheese
Mont d’Or is a seasonal cheese. It starts appearing in the shops in France from September on, and through the Winter. As the weather warms up, the cheese flies South to the Antarctic. Cheese-watchers turn out in droves to watch thousand-strong flocks of Mont d’Or cheeses heading out towards Africa and beyond. Um, OK….back to Earth here: the cheese is made over the Fall and Winter months from the fat-heavy milk from cows. During the Spring and Summer, the milk from these same cows is used to make gruyere and comté. The story goes that the mountain farmers who normally pooled their milk to make these harder cheeses would become isolated by snow during the colder months, so needed to preserve the milk themselves. They made small, soft cheeses which could be made at lower temperatures than those needed for comté and gruyere. The soft cheeses were also higher in fat content because of the changing diet of the cows as they came down from the mountain pastures to the valley floor for the Winter. The milk Mont d’Or is made with must come from cows who graze above 700 meters (2300 feet). If they stray down to 699 meters, I’m not sure what happens then. The cows get a detention, maybe?
The controversy swirling around Mont d’Or
The Swiss and French of the Mont d’Or region have been fighting over who invented the cheese for years. In the end, the border is arbitrary and they all come from the same area, so who can say? Now-a-days, the French Mont d’Or is made with unpasteurized milk and the Swiss one with pasteurized milk, but the rest of the process is the same. I haven’t actually tried a Swiss Mont d’Or, but I have heard it whispered in corridors and from behind bushes that the one made with unpasteurized milk tastes much better.
The mountainous area of Mont d’Or is in the East of France, bordering on Switzerland (obviously!). I’m afraid I haven’t been there yet,so you’ll just have to imagine snowy mountains and Heidi-like chalets dotted about the place (well, I imagine that’s what it looks like! The wood box the cheese comes in is made with spruce, which gives the soft, creamy cheese an added musky flavour. The rind is soft and should be eaten along with the rest of the cheese. Don’t try to cut it off. You’ll miss out on the best bit!
If you can find a round of Mont d’Or in your country, try to taste it. I had a quick look on the internet and saw that there are online cheese shops in various parts of the world, such as the U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand, that sell it. It is also called Vacherin sometimes. In the Southern hemisphere, I’m afraid you’ll have to eat it in your Summer since it is a seasonal cheese. Try to pick a rainy day and put the air-conditioning on to high so that the setting’s right!
By Lisa Watson
Mont d’Or cheese from France
- 1 Mont d’Or cheese
- 4 Tbsp White wine
- to taste Cracked Black Pepper
- 12 -15 medium Potatoes
- a selection Dried Meats prosciutto, ham, bresaola, salami
- Take the lid of the wooden cheese box. Cover the outside of the box with aluminium foil to prevent leaks.
- Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
- The size of your potatoes will vary the cooking time: medium ones will take about 30 -40 minutes to cook. Run a sharp knife over the top of each potato so that it doesn’t explode when cooking, and put them in the oven on a baking tray, or straight on the metal rack. Leave them to bake until you can push a fork into them easily.
- About 30 minutes before the potatoes are done, put the cheese in the oven to melt.
- Arrange the various cuts of dried meats on plates.
- When the cheese and potatoes are ready, put everything in the centre of the table and put a spoon in the melted cheese. Everyone can help themselves! If you feel the need for something healthy, add a green salad to the dinner.