Saturday 25 November 2017

Food news: The holy grail of cheese

Vacherin cheeses
Vacherin cheeses
Massimo Boturra
Bombay Pantry

Katy McGuinness

Mont D'Or, dubbed 'the holy grail of French raw milk cheeses', is back in season. Cue cheers from all self-respecting foodies: this is cause for celebration.

The high pastures of Mont D'Or straddle the Swiss/French border and there are records dating back as far as the 13th century showing cheese encircled in wood being made by monks in this Haut Doubs and Vaud region. The cheese is made with winter cow's milk, which is higher in fat than summer milk. This high-fat content means that the cheeses need to be wrapped in a sturdy material to stop them from falling apart, unlike the hard Gruyere and Comte cheeses made with summer milk. This is done with spruce bark from the trees found all over the Alps, which imparts a resinous flavour to the cheese. The cheese is then lightly washed to encourage it to ripen, before being packed into the traditional spruce box, in which it ages for a minimum of a further 21 days. For the best flavour, though, the full barnyard, the cheese should really age for six to eight weeks.

The production and consumption of Mont D'Or has remained seasonal due to its AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) status, and officially the cheese cannot be made before August 15. Although it can be sold after three weeks, cheeses that have been aged for six to eight weeks and display the rich, piney flavours that make Mont D'Or so distinctive are only starting to become available around now.

Be careful which type you buy. The Swiss version - correctly called Vacherin Mont D'Or - is made with pasteurised milk and lacks a certain characteristic funkiness. In France, there are two versions of Mont D'Or - one pasteurised, and one unpasteurised. Look for the words 'lait cru' on the label - unless you are pregnant or have other health issues that preclude you from eating unpasteurised cheese, this is the one that you should go for.

What's the best way of eating your Mont D'Or? First of all don't, whatever you do, put it in the fridge. You'll ruin it. The simplest way to eat it is to remove it from any plastic packaging, keep it in a warm place, and then remove the rind lid by making a circle in the top with a small, sharp knife and lifting it off, to reveal the lovely gloopiness within. Use a spoon to lift out the cheese and eat with bread or a neutral-tasting cracker. You'll find recipes online for baking the cheese, sometimes with wine, garlic or herbs, for even more goo.

The best wine to drink with Mont D'Or is a Cotes de Jura, made with Chardonnay and Savagnin grapes. You're welcome!



Massimo Boturra

The second Food On The Edge symposium takes place on October 24 and 25 in Galway. There is a terrific line-up of speakers, including Massimo Bottura (above), and there's no better place to get a sense of what's going on in the minds of chefs from all over the world.


Bombay Pantry

Bombay Pantry has a new menu that includes salads, small plates and an increased number of vegetarian and paleo-friendly dishes. The smoky cauliflower is a great alternative to rice, and the Frankie rolls are the Indian equivalent of a wrap. Download the app for 20pc off your first order.



Philip Fitzsimons (above), who is a finalist in the BIM Young Fishmonger of the Year, has just opened a new branch of Fitzsimons Family Fishmongers on Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire. Its range includes homemade chowder, fish pies, and fish cakes alongside pre-packed and oven-ready fish dishes.

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