Vacherin Mont d'Or Est Arrivee!
Switzerland cheeses, like fruits and vegetables, have their
seasons, and the season has arrived for Vacherin Mont DOr,
a traditional winter specialty of the Vaud region.
neatly into their round pine boxes, a characteristic ripple
across the top of their golden-yellow crusts, Vacherin Mont
DOr cheeses can now be found in almost every shop and
supermarket in this area.
Mont D'Or is a mild but tasty cheese with a creamy, sometimes
almost runny consistency. With its slightly balsamic flavor,
it embodies the aura of the pine forests of the Jura mountains
where it is made.
more about this Vaud tradition, I went to visit the
cradle of Vacherin Mont DOr, the tiny village
of Charbonnieres in valley of Joux. Inquiries in several lateries
led me to the small shop run by the Rochat brothers. Jean-Michel
and Remy Rochat are the men everyone in the Lac de Joux region
insists you must get to know if you want to know about Le
Vacherin. Although it was Sunday, I was fortunate to find
Remy at work. During the Vacherin season, which lasts from
mid-October until March, the Rochat shop is open every day
from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. While catering to an almost constant
stream of faithful customers, Remy told me about the history
and production of the cheese.
|The vacherin season lasts from
mid-October until March.
Mont dOr is thought to have originated in the Mont dOr
region of France at the beginning of the 19th Century. When
milk production declined at the end of the summer season,
farmers in the French alps made smaller cheeses. They called
these small cows milk cheeses vacherins to match the
name given to small goat cheeses: chevrotins. Swiss records
indicate that by 1832 Vacherin was also being produced in
the Joux Valley.
production of the cheese is divided into two phases. The first
takes place at the laterie, where the milk is curdled (cailler).
With Vacherin it is the temperature makes the difference,
Remy told me. The milk is not heated to as high a temperature
as for Gruyere. Once curdled, it is placed in approximately
1 ½ foot long cylinders which are perforated with holes.
The petit lait (whey) is allowed to run off. When the cheese
is solid, the vacherins are carefully cut into rounds.
vacherin is bound with a thin strip of red pine known as a
sangle. The sanglage of the cheese contributes a fine taste
of tanin to the finished product. The practice has even given
rise to a unique vocation: that of the sangleur who, working
in the forests of the Jura, lifts the special strips from
final phase of production, the Vacherins are moved from the
Laterie to the cave of an affineur, like the one managed by
Remy's brother Jean-Michel, where they will be refined for
a minimum of three weeks before they are ready to eat. Laid
out on wooden planks, the cheeses must be turned each day
and their surfaces brushed with salt water. Once a month has
passed, the affineur cuts-off the overlapping portion of the
sangle, where the ends of the wood meet, and makes a small
incision backwards into the cheese. This enables the cheese
to be pressed neatly into its wooden box and creates an aesthetically
pleasing ripple across its golden crust.
buying Vacherin, you should look for La Belle Croute (the
beautiful crust)," Remy says. The surface of the cheese
should be yellow and supple.
"When buying Vacherin, you should look for La Belle
Croute (the beautiful crust)."
to Serve Vacherin Mont D'Or
Vacherin Mont DOr must be kept
in a cool place (5-8 degrees centigrade) and should
be eaten within a few days of purchase. Like a good
wine, it should be allowed to chambrer, or come
to room temperature several hours before being eaten.
Cut into triangles, the cheese can be
served as desert, or as a main course. The crust is
not eaten. In the Lac de Joux area Vacherin is often
served with small boiled potatoes, known as berbots
in the local argot. At the table of cheese-maker Remy
Rochat, table, it is frequently paired with roesti and
green salad, and sometimes even with Tuna fish, a combination
Remy claimed was delicious but a bit hard on the stomach!
Vacherin Mont DOr can also be
eaten hot, like fondue. A recipe I picked up in Coop
a few years ago calls for removing the Vacherin from
its wooden box and sangle, and placing it in a small
casserole around the same size as the cheese. Hollow
out a small cylinder in the middle of the cheese around
the thickness of your thumb and fill it with a local
Swiss white wine. Then place the casserole in the oven
for around 20 minutes at 200 C. Together with crusty
bread and a green salad this is a perfect meal for apres-ski.