The season for Mont d’Or has come around again. Season? For cheese? Well yes there is a certain way to do all things culinary here in France…and now according to UNESCO, French food is certainly amongst the best. In case you didn’t see, this week they added the “gastronomic meal of the French” to their list of Intangible Cultural Heritage …so of course that gives me the green light for starting a series on food…and more specifically this time the amazing selection of French cheeses.
We have two local cheese shops and I love my weekly trip to stock up. The smell is incredible as you walk in and the range of cheeses on offer is amazing. Obviously most of these are French cheeses, but I can always get Parmesan and even my personal favourite English Stilton.
So getting back to Mont D’Or…what is it? Well it comes in a box as it can be so runny the box is needed to keep it in order. There is a limited season set for many natural and traditional products that does not seek to be obstructive, but rather to ensure we can enjoy them at their best.
In the Autumn, the herds return to the stables after spending the summer in pastures. Milk production decreases and is not enough to make the Comté cheese, made from the same milk in the summer months. So farmers had the idea to make a smaller cheese and put it in a box. Now the cheese has an AOC label and is its prduction is tightly controlled. Sales to the consumer are only allowed from September 10 to May 10.
Mont d’Or is made exclusively with whole milk from Montbeliard cows, also in its raw state rather than pasteurized. This means that export to certain countries is not therefore possible, so best to come taste it “sur place” !!
Matured in a cellar for 21 days on planks of spruce, the cheeses are turned and rubbed daily with salt water. Maturation ends in a box also made of spruce where the crust forms and takes on a nice flavour from the wood.
Mont d’Or is named after the tallest mountain in the département of Doubs, at 1461 m altitude (in the Jura mountains near Besançon). The first written records date back to the eighteenth century. It adorned the table at the time of Louis XV who apparently loved it for the its delicacy and creaminess.
We invited a friend around for supper to enjoy this treat – as to eat a whole one between two would be just a little bit greedy.
Of course you can just eat it cold, but my own personal favourite method is warmed up in the oven until it really starts to run…see the method below for suggestions.
Of course it should be married with a crisp, white wine to enjoy it best. We had a Chablis, for example, but many others would do just as well.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Wrap the cheese (still in its wooden box) with tin foil, leaving the top exposed.
Cut a garlic clove in half and smear over the top of the Mont D’Or. You can even tuck in a few pieces into the cheese itself. Anyway make half a dozen holes into the skin of the cheese and dribble in some dry white wine. Bake for about 15 minutes in the oven or until the top feels soft to the touch and the cheese underneath is gooey…
It can be eaten with anything you like, but I suggest dipping in hunks of crusty baguette, dribbled over boiled or even baked potatoes, with extra crunch from gherkins and a few slices of nice saucisson or salami to round things off.