February 19, 2008
La Fête du Fromage - Vacherin du Haut Doubs
This cheese is one of France's most succulent wintertime treats.
Vacherin du Haut Doubs has been produced for over 200 years high in the Alps, in the Franche-Comté. It was previously called Vacherin du Mont d'Or by both the French and the Swiss, who each claimed that they were the first to produce it. In 1973 Switzerland quietly laid legal claim to it. Then, to add insult to injury, in 1983 they began producing the cheese from pasteurized cow's milk!
Sacré bleu! The French were forced to call the cheese from their side of the border either Mont d'Or or Vacherin du Haut Doubs.
Most French cheese is produced during the summer months, when the animals feed on sweet, summer grasses, so this cheese is unique in that it is produced from the unpasteurized milk of the Montbéliard and Simmentaler cows during the winter months, when they graze on cold weather vegetation and grain. AOC guidelines state that the cheese may be produced only between August 15 and March 31.
Breaking through the moist, thick, wavy rind with your spoon reveals a creamy, beige interior. The flavor is mild, yeasty and subtly infused by the spruce wood box in which the cheese ripens. Warming Vacherin in the oven only improves its flavor, bringing out the richness of this cheese.
So get your spoons ready to scoop up some of its runny deliciousness, and pour yourself a glass of Côtes du Jura, Beaujolais or Chardonnay to enjoy alongside.
This is truly a fabulous seasonal cheese, so get some while you can.