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Cheese from Burgundy and Franche-Comté

Map of Cheese Production (AOP) in Bourgogne Franche-Comte, ©Agreste
Map showing areas of cheese production - AOP (Appellation d’origine protégée) © Agreste

the Burgundian Cheese board


The Burgundian cheese platter features the famous names of Epoisses, Cîteaux, Abbaye de la Pierre qui Vire, and Bouton de Culotte and there are some excellent small suppliers selling at the weekly markets such as Joigny, Auxerre, Beaune, Dijon and Avallon. With plentiful rich cows’ and goats’ milk available, the creamy cheeses are an essential feature in the cuisine of the region. Look out for the 'bio' label. In restaurants, the cheese board is often irresistible such as the one shown below at the Abbaye de la Bussière.

Burgundian cheese board at Abbaye de la Bussiere and Berthaut's Epoisses

Epoisses

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It was described as 'the king of cheeses' by Brillat-Savarin, the gastronome.
The rich and rich-smelling Epoisses cheese was probably first made by the Cistercian monks at the Abbaye de Pontigny and the Abbaye de Fontenay in the 15th century. Now made by the Berthaut factory in the village of Epoisses from cows’milk, the most traditional version is dipped in Marc de Bourgogne every day for two months. Other varieties from this producer include one dipped in Chablis wine (Affidelice), another coated with ash (Aisy Cendre) and lastly, one treated with a solution of water and salt (Soumaintrain, see below).

The traditional Epoisses is widely available in Burgundy shops. It, of course, features on the cheese boards of restaurants and is delicious as a sauce on steak, in Tarteflette and Croque Monsieur. It is exported to Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Japan. There is a shop at the Berthaut factory in Epoisses selling all the cheese varieties and related local products from wine to mustard and booklets on the cookery of Bourgogne.

Wine choice with Epoisses cheeses: Choose a white wine from the Côte de Beaune or from the Côte Chalonnaise, or a red from Irancy, Côte de Nuits or Savigny-lès-Beaune.

*Open daily except on Sunday. Closed for lunch between 12.15 and 14.00.
*Visit Château Epoisses in the village–park open all year from 9.00 to 19.00.
Château open July and August except Tuesday

Fromagerie Gaugry

Due to health and safety regulations (those great protectors but never-the-less the kill-joys of many good things) it is not always possible to see the famous cheeses of Burgundy being made. One factory, Gaugry, have it sorted however. They have a viewing platform and you can visit free of charge any day of the week except Sunday and purchase their cheeses too. Gaugry make amongst others, Epoisses and a delicious but little known cheese called Ami du Chambertin, created by Raymond Gaugry in 1950. You can find the factory Brochon, near Marsannay la Côte
tel: 00 33 3 (0)80 34 00 05.

Gaec des Marronniers

La Fromargerie des Marronniers in Origny, north east of Montbard, is the third producer of Epoisses cheese which, like Berthaut and Gaugry, has an AOC. At Origny there is a shop supplying other types of cheese, yoghurts and regional specialities tel: 00 33 (0)3 80 93 85 04


Soumaintrain


Soumaintrain cheese from BurgundyLike Epoisses, Soumaintrain is a soft cows' milk cheese, which originated in the village of the same name in the Yonne department in the Middle Ages when it is thought that farmers paid their rent to the Abbaye of Pontigny with ripened cheese. In June 2016, Soumaintrain received an IGP - indication géographique protégée from the EU placing it alongside the top cheeses of the region. It is now also made in the Côte d'Or and the Aube. The cheese comes in discs, similar in size to Epoisses, and has a bright orange rind which forms as the cheese is washed in brine. Soumaintrain is relatively mild in its young stages, getting more pungent as it matures, and it will ooze delightfully at room temperature - have a spoon handy for serving. Now available across the region but at local markets in the Yonne and also in the villages of Beugnon, Jaules and Bouilly the traditional farm producers make the lait cru version (ask for bien crémeux, the richest of all). Industrial pasteurized versions are also available.


Serve with a glass of Irancy wine from the Yonne department.

Abbaye de la Pierre qui Vire

Within easy driving distance of Epoisses, at St-Léger-Vauban in the Morvan forest, the Benedictine order of monks make the famous cheese at the farm of Abbaye de la Pierre qui Vire. Creamy and gentle in flavour, both goats’ and cows’ milk cheeses are available from the shop at the Abbaye and at shops in the locality. The Abbey monks are now making deliciously subtle flavoured yoghurts too.

*Shop at Abbaye open 10.45 to 12.00 and 15.00 to 17. 30 very day. Closed January.

Chaource

This creamy cheese is claimed by both the regions of Burgundy and Champagne. The Fromagerie d’Auxon near the river Armançon has been producing this delicious cheese for four generations, updating their processes to keep up with the times and demand.

Wine choice: White red and rosé wines all go well with Chaource. Choose a Chablis or Champagne or an Aloxe Corton for a red.

Bouton de Culotte

This little morsel, ‘trouser button’, is one of a selection of goats’ cheese produced in the Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy in various shapes and sizes.

Wine choice: Red or white wine from the Mâconnais region.

Abbaye de Cîteaux

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While this cheese is not widely available, it is worth going out of your way for. The Cisterian monks, at the Abbaye de Cîteaux sell the cheese from their shop situated east of Nuits-St-Georges along the D8. The abbey was founded in 1098 but suffered greatly during the French Revolution, before being revived in 1898. Today there are 30 or so monks in residence.

The milk from their Montbéliard cattle, it is heated to 60 degrees C and a culture is introduced. Rennet is added to warm milk to set the curd and then this is cut and cut again to release the whey. Then the mixture is packed into moulds and refrigerated overnight.

But it is the ripening of the cheese which is all important. Three layers must grow on the cheese in the correct order – first the yellow mould, then the white, and finally by rubbing with brine, the red mould appears. After 18 days in the aging rooms or caves it is ready for sale and continues to ripen. At three and a half to four weeks old it is in its prime. The cheese shop, Alain Hess in Beaune matures the cheese in his own cave, with excellent results, see Specialist Shops.

Chèvrerie de la Pierre Longue

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In the little village of le Fresne, next to St-Germain-de-Modéon in the Morvan Natural Park, Colette Giraud keeps 40 goats. She makes a variety of cheeses ranging from pavé du Morvan which is like Camembert, to crottins du Morvan, the little round cheeses.In this perfect rural setting with the forest backdrop, the life of the artisan farmer goes on. Colette Giraud is a small producer, nurturing her flock, and taking great pride in the end result.

You will find the cheeses on sale at local markets such Avallon on Saturdays and in specialist cheese shops such as Berthaut in Epoisses. Otherwise, visit the Chèvrerie and see the goats, the cheese-making process and sample the produce. It is a visit which is sure to delight children and adults alike. Different delicious honeys and pain d’épice are also on sale too.

Chevrerie de la Pierre Longue, Le Fresne, St-Germain-de-Mondéon, 21530. Tel 00 33 380 64 71 97. Open Friday evening from 17.00 – 19.00 and Saturday from 8.00 – 12.00 from March to end of October..

Cheese and Wine Tasting Tour in Burgundy see Burgundy on a Plate

Franche-Comte cheese

Montbeliard cow's milk for cheese making in Franche-Comte, photo burgundytoday Comte cheese being aged at Fort Les Rousses, photo burgundytoday.com Mont dOr Cheese from Franche-Comte, photo Mont d'Or

If you love cheese, the cuisine of Franche-Comté is for you. Everything from salad to breads, quiches and fondues feature on the menus. You will see the distinctive brown and white Montbéliard cows grazing during the summer months in the fields between the wooded and rolling Jura mountain range in the south and the Vosges mountains in the north. The rich milk goes to make the famous cheeses of the region, Comté, Morbier, Mont d'Or and Bleu de Gex, and each has an AOC, Appellation d'Origine Contrôlé, requiring stringent production standards. Throughout the area there are 'fruitières', co-operative cheese dairies, which turn the milk into cheese. Also there are fromageries, those pungent smelling specialist shops selling nothing but cheese in most towns.

Comté

A hard cheese with a nutty flavour, Comté melts easily making it ideal for gratins, breads and fondues. The cheese is still produced in the time honoured way ensuring  that the milk is pure, that there are no additives and that the processes comply with the stringent regulations required. The cheese can only be made from the milk of the Montbéliard cow. Each cow has a hectare of pasture during the summer months and it eats hay grown locally over the winter. The milk is taken to the co-operative within no more than a 13 km radius to ensure that the milk arrives fresh.

The milk is poured into huge copper cauldrons and warmed up. Natural rennet is added to thicken it and transform it into curds. The curds are then beaten and heated to 54 degrees C for 30 minutes then the liquid is drained and the cheese is poured into the Comté moulds which are between 40 and 70 cm diameter. A few hours later, the mould is opened and the cheese will then go into a cool cellar to mature. This is the affineurs, where the cheese stays for anything from four to 18 months, it is regularly turned, salted and rubbed with brine solution. A rind develops and the flavour and texture matures.

Trough for keeping Comte cheese cool in Franche Comte, photo burgundytoday.comIn the days before refrigeration, every house in Franche-Comté had a stone trough, like a font, in the garden to keep the Comté at the right temperature. Now you will see them spilling over with trailing geraniums.

There are over 3,000 fruitieres in Franche-Comté so wherever you are, there is a chance to visit. The local tourist offices have a booklet 'Savourez le temps sur les Routes du Comté'  giving a list of producers.  A tour will be in French and in the case of the larger producers such as the Fort des Rousses in the Haut Jura you must book ahead.

 

Morbier

Morbier Cheese from Franche ComteMorbier is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese named after the small village near Les Rousses close to the Swiss border. The cheese is easy to recognise as it has a layer of black ash which is tasteless, running through the centre. This originates from the time when a layer was made from the milk in the morning, and one in the evening, but these days it is made from a single milking and the ash is added to follow the tradition.
The cheese matures in 45 days to three months and has
45% fat content.

To drink: it is good with Pinot Noir or Gewurtztraminer wine.

Mont d'Or

Mont d'Or is soft, creamy and gooey. It is made seasonally between August 15 and March 15 and is known as Vacherin du Haut-Doubs in Franche-Comté and Vacherin Mont d'Or in Switzerland. The cheese is made in the winter months when the cows come down from the pasture when there is insufficient milk to make Comté cheese. Even so, it takes seven litres of milk to make a kilo of cheese. In Franche-Comté unpasteurised milk is used and the cheese is made in the traditional way using very fine strips of spruce harvested by 'sanglier'  Mont d'Or is sometimes served warm from the box and eaten like fondue.

Bleu de Gex

Bleu de Gex is also made in the Haut Jura close to the Swiss border in the area around the village of Gex. During production, Penicillium Roqueforti mould is introduced and the cheese is aged for a minimum of three weeks in a cool cellar, when the rind develops.


Concoillotte

Cancoillotte is a runny cheese served either hot or cold, made from a Franche-Comté cheese called Metton. It is sold in tubs and served on salads, with meat or as a snack