22 Dec A whiff of fromage and a tomme
Situated just outside the bustling centre of Val d'Isere lies the Mattis' Fromagerie, the creators of some of the most delectable cheeses we have to offer. At Le Chardon we place great emphasis on sourcing quality, local produce, supporting the community and all the while giving our guests a taste of some of the finest produce in the region. With only a few days left before our first guests' arrival, we timetabled a very important visit for our chefs to the local fromagerie.
Similar to Le Chardon, the fromagerie is a family run business and cheese making has gone back generations. It started with the great grandfather of the fromagerie farmer, Xavier Mattis, who used to work as a taxi driver in Paris in the winter and in the summer worked in Val d'Isere as a cheese maker and from then on the business grew.
Our chefs take this opportunity to discover and gain a better understanding of the transformation the cheese undertakes from a watery curds and whey solution to the delicious product that ends on our table - a process which happens all within a 2km stretch.
What you might find on a local Le Chardon cheese board…
Tomme – medium/hard pressed and follows the basic cheese recipe. Tomme can be pressed for different amount of times depending on the desired potency. For example fresh Tomme, which can be pressed for as little as a few days, is wonderfully light tasting and delicious in salads but Tomme which is pressed for longer, up to a year, offers much more in terms of flavour.
Beaufort - part of the Gruyere family, is recognisable from its concaved mould. It is a semi firm cheese, pressed for 6 – 12 months and is made from unpasteurised cow's milk. The cheese can be made in winter or summer but offer quite different tastes, the latter being considered more of a delicacy.
Vacherin – Or Mont d'Or as it's known in France, is made from unpasteurised cow's milk and is over 2000 years old. It is traditionally made between the first and last frost of winter and from the Montbeliard cattle breed. Best served at room temperature, this cheese should be runny when eaten.
Raclette – The fromagerie offers both a smoked and non-smoked version of this cheese which is used in this traditional dish.
Reblochon – Unlike most, this medium/soft, unpasteurised cheese is not named after its region of production. Due to the fact that it was difficult to prove its origin, the name Reblochon actually derives from a mixture of ancient words meaning stolen. Reblochon matures at just eight weeks and offers a refreshing apple and nut flavour.
These are merely a few of the cheeses on offer, if you want to know the rest you will have to come and taste for yourself!
A few notes on serving
Meanwhile here are a few notes on how the connoisseur should serve his or her cheese. Our chefs and hosts were leaning in ever so closely at this point!
The perfect cheese companions
As a rule, serve fresh hard fruit as an accompaniment with soft cheese and pears and stone fruit with hard cheese. Nuts are invariably good – try almonds with tangy cheese and walnuts with milder varieties. Dried fruit, apricots and figs, go well with most varieties and prunes are often favoured with salty blues. Sweet chutneys are brilliant and light pickles with a tinge of sweetness (Japanese style) are in vogue at the moment.
Wine or beer?
Sweeter wines like Muscat and traditionally Sauternes are paired with blue cheese – sweet and salt match well. Full bodied red wines finish off a good Beaufort but the lighter, fruity Burgundy valley Gamays are best served with Reblochon. Generally, the more aged cheeses take the more robust wines and of course vice versa. But it is always a question of personal taste! Dark beers are fine with aged cheese and cider partners well with Brie and Camembert. A good pointer is to note what food products are produced in the region where the cheese is produced. Whatever you do, avoid water as water is perfectly dreadful (water/oil repel)!
Don't cut the nose off to spite the cheese!
Never cut the nose off any cheese! It denies others and spoils the look. The large twice cooked cheeses may be cut half way up the wedge – these cheeses reach maturity throughout the curd at around six months (unfortunately they can be sold at four months which is too young) so you could turn over a very large, say 4kg, wedge on its side and cut down the length and then again half way down across the width to give you four good slabs - 2kg in two pieces. Wrap the neat chunks in greaseproof, waxed paper or aluminium foil and store in the salad store of the fridge. They will keep for weeks. Avoid cling film as the poor cheese cannot breathe.
Finally, take the cheese to be served from the fridge a good two hours before service and cover loosely with a damp cloth in a cool place. Any heat inclines a cheese to sweat and despoil. Note: Vacherin is the exception. You'll need to put your Vacherin in a warm draft free space in the kitchen for 24 hours before serving.
And after all that...breathe and enjoy!