Cheese!

Now for a little post about cheese…

I know this was intended to be a blog about cycling but I spend so much time (and money) exploring local cheeses that I figured I should write those up as well.

When asked, most people would be hard pressed to come up with a local French Alps cheese, or at best perhaps the Beaufort. But while the Beaufort is lovely – and its cousin the Beaufort Alpage can be divine – the local fromage is surprisingly diverse. And the Beaufort is not technical a “local” variety, given that it is produced about 40 km away.

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(left to right) Beaufort été and Abondance

But given it is the most famous, it’s worth starting with the Beaufort regardless. Produced in the Savoie since Roman times, the Beaufort belongs to the Gruyère family. It is made from raw milk and apparently the enormous size and round shape of the wheels was to help roll them down the mountains. The été (summer) and alpage (produced from the milk of a single herd, grazing in alpine pastures and then aged in a chalet) varieties are the most highly sought after, and accordingly priced. Apparently the yellow colour of these superior varieties comes from the flowers on which the cows graze in the summer.

The cheese on the right is a genuine local speciality, the Abondance. Also a raw-milk semi-hard variety, the Abondance has reportedly been produced in the Haute-Savoie since the 14th century when monks from the Sainte-Marie d’Abondance monastery were making the cheese for the papal enclave in Avignon. In 1990, the Abondance was granted the protection of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) label.

A delicate cheese worthy of any alpine tasting, the best tends to make my tongue tingle.

As always, best enjoyed with crusty French bread, the fresher the better! Bon appétit!

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