Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cheese: Mimolette Vieille

Mimolette is a round cheese produced in the area around Lille, France (the extreme north of France, near Belgium), as well as areas of Belgium and the Netherlands. 
It is made of pasteurized cow's milk and has a gray crust and orange flesh. The orange color comes from annatto, produced from the pulp surrounding the seed of the achiote. The gray crust is from cheese mites introduced to add flavor by their action on the surface of the cheese. 
The mites burrow tiny holes in the surface of the cheese and the fine gray dust is a mixture of the mites, their dander and excrement. 
The mites add a sweet, minty odor. The uncut cheese looks similar to a cantaloupe. It also looks similar to a cannonball which gives it one of its other names: boule de Lille. 
Mimolette ages anywhere from two months to two years. The French word "molle," where the word Mimolette come from, means "soft," which is how the Mimolette crust is when it is young. The crust becomes harder with age. When younger in age, Mimolette's taste resembles Parmesan. As it ages it gets harder to chew and gets more of a hazelnut flavor. 
While aging in cold damp cellars, workers come in weekly to turn the cheese over and brush off the cheese mites and their excrement. The Mimolette we had was aged one year. Sources say it is best after aging at least 18 months. The flesh was quite hard and the taste was complex. It initially had little taste when it hit the mouth, but flavor rushed in and then gradually peter'd out. Judy felt that it had a little of a cheddar taste. The rind tasted old and musty. 
In our group of taste-testers, several really liked it (I was not one of them). Several noted a creamy texture and a good after-taste. Mimolette was originally made at Louis XIV's request who wanted a French cheese similar to Dutch Edam. Mimolette is produced in the same way as Edam. Louis XIV had the cheese colored orange to differentiate it. Mimolette aged at least one year is known as Memolette Vieille, aged at least 18 months is known as Mimolette Extra Vieille. It is one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die

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