Bleu de Termignon – how it all started?

bleu de termignon
Bleu de Termignon

Have you ever tasted Bleu de Termignon? If not you should seriously consider doing that. It will be a kind blue cheese educational journey. It is a real, natural blue cheese made at a few farms rather high up in the mountains of Savoie. Within the boundaries of the Vanoise national park between the valleys of Tarentaise and Maurienne. Beautiful area. But what’s so special about Bleu de Termignon?

bleu de termignon
Bleu de Termignon, the other side.

Bleu de Termignon – an original?

Although running the risk of repeating myself and become boring I have to remind you about André Simon in Cheeses of the World from 1960 where he says: “Blue Cheshire is not made, it happens.” That’s exactly the point which fascinates me a lot. This is one of the issues that makes cheese so interesting; biology, nature and living life. Bleu de Termignon is a blue cheese where nature still decides the outcome. You surely remember the story about Charlemagne, penned by Notker the Stammererer, aka Notker Balbulus.

Also read: Blue Cheese isn’t made – it just happens

From beautiful Savoie

Bleu de Termignon hails as it is from the mountainous Savoie region in eastern France. There are just five or six small farms making it from June through September. The process is not like other cheese making processes, but not going further into that part of it. However, they mix fresh curd with curd made to days earlier. Bind it with cloth and puts it into moulds. Removes it more or les regularly from the mould to change cloth before it is set aside to wait for nature getting to work. Or not. The outcome is not at all always predictable. The is no blue culture added, Penicillium Glaucum is present on the grass and flowers and herbs the cattle feed on. No needles to give the molds air to breathe. I have been told the blue molds do not need all that much oxygen to survive anyway, so I don’t know if the needles are more the habit than the need. Apart from Bleu de Termignon, Spanish Cabrales is also an exception from the rule.

A cheese to taste?

As said, this is about education. If you enjoy blue cheese at all it is a must to have tasted Bleu de Termignon. If you dare not go any further that the pasteurised industrial varieties you’ll find in any supermarket, do not spend neither time nor money on this cheese. Waste.

Wherever you find yourself in the blue cheese landscape, you should know that this cheese is different from any other blue cheese you have tasted. Bleu de Termignon is probably also showcasing how far we have moved away from the original. It might just be you may have a blue cheese without any bluing. In that case you’re fooled by nature and you have to try one more time. Well, most of us buy a pice from a cheesemonger which gives us the opportunity to check if the cheese is blue or not. Texture is firm and crumbly. The firmness might remind you of an alpine cheese, but that’s about all. Perhaps closer if there are no bluing at all. The rind is also well worth a close look. Does not look very edible, so I advice you not to try.

Tasting notes says a touch of bitterness, especially just beneath the rind. Savoury, grass and herbs. Meaty and some barnyard. Did I loose you now? Not very uncommon cheese tasting notes this. Compelx flavour that sits long in your mouth. If cheese is something that you care for, this s a cheese you have to taste before you die. No less.

To drink

Perhaps something unorthodox, just as the cheese itself? A Chinon blanc from the Loire. Move up the price scale. If you’re in for something sweet, try a red sweet on the Tannat grape from the Madiran region of France.

Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar

Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar is representing the gold standard of Cheddar. This standard has of course changed over the centuries, but has kept pretty stable for the best part of the last 70 years or so. How a Cheddar taste, or any other cheese for that matter, is not something that change overnight, but every now and then innovations occur, changing flavour or texture a tiny little bit. Innovations have happened, enough to mention the names Edith Cannon and Joseph Harding who each in their own way laid some of the foundations for today’s Cheddar.

keen's farmhouse Cheddar
Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar

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Brie de Meaux – tried it young?

Anything like a good Brie? Got to be a mature Brie de Meaux. King of Cheeses and the Kings’ Cheese as it was so lyrically described after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The French statesman Talleyrand had a load of Brie de Meaux shipped to Vienna and served during one of the dinners to smooth the negotiations. Or it could just be he was home sick and some French cheese would ease his yearning desire to go home. But the cheese became a success at the dinner and wicked tongues have it the French escaped the negotiations without being too seriously wounded. Could be. I am Norwegian and we want our Brie de Meaux or any of the many wannabes, well matured. What about you? And what is best?

brie de meaux
Young Brie de Meaux, like the French prefers it.

Brie de Meaux the French way

Norwegians and the French are definite opposites in many ways, but also when it comes to how we prefer our Brie. We want it well matured while the French want it rather fresh. Fresh means about four weeks old; that’s the minimum maturing time for a Brie de Meaux. But of course, it might be older.

I have to admit that I usually have had my Brie rather mature. And with a fascination for the farmyard aromas and flavours it develops with time. Which again some find a bit too opulent. Well, then my recommendation is to look for a younger version. The difference between young and mature is easily detected, just look for the somewhat lighter and firmer core as shown on the picture above.

SE OGSÅ PÅ DENNE VIDEOEN.

Dairy and fine acidity

There is a huge difference between a young and a mature Brie de Meaux. Flavours of milk and a fine acidity. Nothing like farmyard at all. Even though I quite like the mature version, I think this young cheese was very refreshing and will choose it when I find it. More common in France than here, I suppose.

Not just young Brie in France

As it is, they don’t just eat young Brie in France. There is something called Brie Noir, which, as the name indicates, is rather on the dark side. Matured for at least eight months. I’ve never tasted it, but would love to. The French have it for breakfast dipping it in their café au lait. And with a touch of prejudice, a Gauloises as well.

To drink

Brie de Meaux pairs well with a red wine. Preferably from Burgundy, but not necessarily. Not on the heavy side though, no Parker pleaser. Otherwise, Champagne of course. Mature.

Cabrales – the very best of the Blues?

Quite a few would say that Queso Cabrales, or just Cabrales which is most commonly used, is the world’s best blue cheese. From the northern foothills of the Picos de Europa mountains in Asturias, Spain. Some would of course fiercely go against that. So be it. What is indisputable though; not that many have tasted it. If you are new to the cheese world, this is not a place to start. Personally I am not all that concerned with a cheese being the best in the world or not. I am concerned with the use of raw milk and a cheese being made by artisan cheese makers. A real cheese. And what is good or tasteful? Varies between people. Under any circumstance, this is a cheese that will challenge your taste buds.

cabrales
Queso Cabrales from Asturias in Spania.

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Moelleux du Revard from the Savoie

I have a fascination for Savoie, being it Savoie or Haut-Savoie. And you’ll have to excuse me for using the original name for the regions, and not the English Savoy. It’s a wonderful area, that’s so, but more important, there is an array of excellent cheeses hailing from this area. And, would you believe, some excellent wines pairing well with the region’s cheeses. I have to admit, albeit unwillingly, that I have hardly been to the region. Well, I’ve been to Annecy and I have even played golf at the local golf course. That was sort of a roller coaster tour with a magnificent view of the Lac d’Annecy. Well, I’ve given up golf altogether. I’ve been swimming in the lac as well and spent a very peaceful 14th of July there eating crêpes. Way before my intense interest in cheese.

Annecy er en fantastisk by med kanaler og smale gater.

Annecy is an old city beautifully aligned by the shores of Lac d’Annecy. It is the capital of Haut-Savoie. A short trip from Genève, it’s about 30 kilometers. Breathtaking views from old bridges crossing deep and narrow valleys. About 50 000 people living there. A lot of tourists, especially during the summer time, but a good base for sight-seeing the area. During wintertime most people want to stay higher up in the mountain ranges in the not so picturesque alpine villages. A lot of good food in the whole area, by the way.

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Is mature chèvre underestimated?

The other week I had the pleasure of participating in a guided tasting of mature chèvre here in Oslo. Mons and their Norwegian importer invited. Up for tasting was among other cheeses mature chèvre. The others being both bloomy and washed rind cheeses which will not be of any focus in this post. Amomg the chèvres, there was also a small puck style ewe’s milk cheese from Provence. For the purpose of this post, it will count as “chèvre”.

moden chèvre
Et utvalg av ostene vi smakte

Mature chèvre, not extra mature

Could be it is just up north where I live we’re so concerned that chèvre is supposed to be rather fresh, I have been shopping very mature chèvres in both Chablis and not least in Bra last autumn which showcased a very rich selection of the cheese. Admittedly, this is a cheese for the advanced cheese lover. Some will, however, readily argue there are many other cheeses as well only for the very committed, an argument I do not quite follow. Enough of that. The cheeses we had up for tasting were not anything as mature as those on the picture below, but a mere two months old or so. But for a lactic chèvre, that is a cheese starting to come of age.

moden chèvre
Særedeles moden chèvre på Cheese 2017 i Bra.

The tasting showed we’re in the habit of eating most chèvre too fresh. Could be we have some bad experience with mature chèvre becoming too sharp and pungent with age. But there is something in the middle, giving a balanced cheese with volume. The acidity that we expect when the cheese is fresh is probably gone. Like old crop coffee. Very good, but lacks acidity. Quite an other cheese, this, giving you an other experience.

What makes this transition?

The maturing, of course. But that said, it does not mean you can just buy a fresh chèvre, leave in in your fridge and expect the same experience. It has something to do with the temperature, humidity, microclimate and love and care. Forgetfulness is, by the way, not part of the maturing treatment. An affineur would not wrap the cheese in any way, either, leaving it for a few months before checking what has happened.

moden chèvre
The ewe’s milk cheese Le Castillon from Provence at Cheese 2017 in Bra, Italy.

The conclusion

As with Champagne, that is usually drunk too young, most chèvre is eaten too young. I am not saying you should quit doing that, just that some are doing just fine with some more age, and thereby giving you a different kind of experience. It’s not an either or. The fresh ones are more for the light summer evenings, while the mature is for the autumn, sitting down in a contemplative mood. The cheeses are out there, ask for them.

To drink

Mature cheeses demand mature wines. There are of course mature Sauvignon blanc, but also try to switch to Chardonnay. Mature Champagne will always work. Some fruity reds as well, we also had a very fine Beaujolais along the mature chèvre. Wonderful.

PS

The mature cheeses we had were:
Cosne de Port Albry from the Loire
Le Saint Haonnois from Roanne, 50/50 goat and cow’s milk
Pouligny from Loire
Le Castillon, from Provence, ewe’s milk

The Transhumance of Beaufort

Beaufort. I put a piece in our fridge and I am actually amazed it’s still there. Respect perhaps. Beaufort is probably the best alpine cheese there is, so you don’t grab it from the fridge just like that. Not a bad word about other French alpine cheeses, or Swiss or Italian for that sake, they’re all good, but Beaufort is special.

Beaufort
Massive fjell i Savoie hvor Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage kommer fra.

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