Vacherin Mont D'Or is a very special winter cheese with a luscious soft texture and powerful flavour full of woody, resinous notes. It is made on both sides of the French / Swiss border around the mountain peak, Mont D'Or. In the Doubs department of eastern France it is made using unpasteurised cow's milk, whilst the Swiss version, made in the canton of Vaud, uses thermised (heat-treated) milk. After an intense legal battle to claim the origins of this cheese, officially only those cheeses made in Switzerland may be called Vacherin Mont D'Or, with French cheeses taking the name Vacherin Haut-Doubs. Our raw milk Vacherin originates from France so should technically take the latter, less familiar name.
Production of Vacherin Mont D'Or has been subject to AOC regulations since 1981 including the use of milk from Montbeliarde or French Simmental cows which must be fed only grass or hay (not fodder). The cheese must be made above 700m altitude.
After slow acidification, the curd of Vacherin Mont D'Or is transferred to circular moulds of various diameters and then lightly pressed. Soon after release from these moulds, a spruce collar is put around each cheese to stop it collapsing. This strip of spruce, a 'sangle', is sourced from local Jura fir trees. Having been soaked in salt water overnight, each strip is boiled to release its natural aromas and flavours, and to ensure no harmful bacteria remain which may taint the cheese.
Once in its collar, Vacherin Mont D'Or is regularly washed in brine solution for 15 days to encourage ripening. During this time the cheese and collar bind together and resinous flavours are imparted to the cheese. The use of brine solution is another traditional link to the local Franche-Comte area, well known for its salt mines. After washing, each cheese is put into a wooden box and matured between 21 and 60 days on spruce shelves. During this time the cheese develops a pillowy, corrugated rind. This crust will be dappled with yellow, light brown or pinkish moulds and covered with fluffy Geotrichum candidum moulds. It is entirely edible.
Vacherin Mont D'Or may be enjoyed on a cheese board. When young, it can be sliced and a serrated knife used to saw through its spruce collar. With aged it will become runny and need to be spooned straight out of its box. Intensely creamy, this distinctive cheese is rich and piney. It works well alongside the flavours of artichoke and beetroot in a winter salad.
Here at Slate we love Vacherin Mont D'Or baked in its box. Click here
for our simple recipe to create an indulgent melted cheese feast.
Alongside Vacherin Mont D'Or our wine partner Katie Goodchild from Heritage Wines
recommends Astley Vineyard Old Vine Kerner 2013
"Kerner is a close relation of Riesling with many similar flavour profiles and characteristics. Astley’s version - the only producer to grow Kerner in England - has a distinct petrol aroma with an almond, honeyed palate and a faint suggestion of smoke and dried lime. Pairing this with Vacherin Mont D'Or is phenomenal. Racy acidity and citrus notes cut through the creamy baked cheese, as smoky flavours add depth to a truly knockout match."