Mont d'Or is a popular French cheese, only produced in the French-Swiss border region. The places where they make this unique product are situated at over 2600 ft (800 m) above sea level.
The cheese is also known among the French as Vacherin du Haut-Doubs. It is among the soft cheeses with a washed rind. Along with Beaufort and Muenster, it makes the list of the most expensive cheeses in France. Just like Comté, Mont d'Or is produced only from cow's milk.
History of Mont d'Or
There exists information, according to which Mont d'Or was being produced in the 18th century by shepherds who had their herds of cattle graze in the Jura region. It is believed that they began making the dairy product in order to find a practical use for the milk given by the animals during the fall-winter season. The amount of milk then is usually less than the amount obtained during the spring-summer season. Milk from the latter is usually used to produce larger cheeses, such as Emmental and Raclette.
The cheese bears the name of the tallest mountain in the province where it is made. A key moment in the history of Mont d'Or cheese was its obtaining АОС (Appellation Origin Controlled) in 1981 in France. This status certifies that the cheese is produced only in the French-Swiss border and by following specific standards. The dairy product earned this same status in Switzerland significantly later, in 2003.
Production of Mont d'Or
Mont d'Or is a seasonal product, meaning it's made only during the fall-winter period. Production begins in mid-August and continues until the 1st half of the month of March. It is believed that the quality of the milk is different the rest of the time and as such the milk substance is put into other types of foods. Usually this type of cheese is made using unpasteurized milk but the Swiss variety does use pasteurized also.
About 2 gal (7 L) of cow milk are needed to produce 2 lb (1 kg) of cheese. The milk is heated to 95°F (35 °C), then starter culture is added. After, the whey needs to be strained and the resulting substance, which is reminiscent of cottage cheese, needs to be pressed lightly. The cheese is left to age in a special oval container made of spruce.
The actual aging process takes place in cellars at temperatures of 59°F (15 °C), where the cheeses are periodically turned over and smeared with brine. Thanks to the container that Mont d'Or is placed in and the production process technique, the taste of the cheese is further enriched. The time it takes for the dairy product to mature is between 5-7 weeks. The resulting cheese is sold in stores from September 10th to May 10th.
Characteristics of Mont d'Or
You'll recognize the cheese by its moist, golden or reddish rind. The inside of the cheese is soft, almost runny, ivory colored. The creamy texture of the product is the reason why it's scooped with a spoon from its container when it's time to use it.
The milk fat of Mont d'Or comes out to 45%. Its taste is pleasant, gentle and refined. Often when eating it one will sense resinous nuances. The aftertaste reminds of a forest and light dew. The aroma of Mont d'Or is associated with the fragrance of wood, mycelium and potatoes.
Choosing Mont d'Or
Mont d'Or is sold in stores in cheese wheel form. These are round shaped and placed in wooden containers of different sizes. But all of them are crafted from spruce. Generally, there are 2 commonly used sizes - small and large. The small cheese wheel has a diameter of 4 3/4" - 6″ and weight between 17.5 oz - 2 lb. The large one is up to 11 3/4″ (30 cm) in diameter and weighs up to 6.5 lb (3 kg).
Once you've decided to purchase this particular expensive French cheese, you need to be completely sure that you're getting the original product, since there is no shortage of Mont d'Or imitators. Know that only the original cheese is sold in wooden containers made of spruce. In addition, its imitators do not have AOC status on the container.
Cooking with Mont d'Or
Mont d'Or can be served on its own or paired with a bottle of quality wine. Chefs believe that dry white wines, as well as red ones, are suitable for it. You can be sure that you'll get a memorable combination if you serve the elegant French cheese with wines such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, rosé, chardonnay and others.
According to culinary aficionados, Mont d'Or is among the cheeses suitable for fondue. Others include Gruyere, Emmental, Comté and Fontina. Usually, fondue is made by heating a little white wine in a specialized container, after which the cheese is added to it. Potato flour is also added and the ingredients are stirred well. Next, it is seasoned with spices such as cumin, black pepper and nutmeg. Optionally, garlic can be added as well.
The cheese is appropriate for sauces and that is why it is used to flavor spaghetti, macaroni, pasta, risotto and potatoes. Its soft consistency allows its use in the preparation of desserts such as rolls, cakes, pancakes, pitas and all kinds of other pastries.