Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cheese: Port Salut

Port Salut (pronounced poor sah-lew) cheese 
was developed by a congregation of Trappist monks who fled France during the French Revolution of 1789 and learned how to make cheese to support themselves. The monks returned to Entrammes, in the department of Mayenne in northwestern France, in 1815, and built the Abbey of Notre Dame du Port du Salut.  
The name of their society is the "Societe Anonyme des Fermiers Reunis," the acronym S.A.F.R. being their registered trademark which is printed on wheels of the cheese. It is made from cow's milk in thick disks about 9 inches in diameter and weighing about five pounds. 
It is polished with brine (smear-ripened with lactic bacteria) while it ages for about a month. It is semi-soft with a pale yellow flesh 
and a thin orange rind. 
Today the rind is made by a plastic-coated wrapper and it easily flakes off. It can have a strong smell, which increases the longer the cheese is kept. But despite the smell, it has a mild, sweet, slightly acid, flavor and a smooth, velvety texture. In 1873 the monks gave exclusive rights to market the cheese to a cheese seller in Paris. In 1959, rights to the cheese were sold to a creamery and the cheese is now produced in a factory, although it is still produced by some monasteries and sometimes known as "Entrammes" cheese.  In cheese tasting with several people, the different texture was noted: it is almost like Velveeta. The texture was also described as a cross between Gouda and Brie. The sweet taste is in the background and it combines with a heavenly texture that feels to the mouth like a wonderful dream amidst pillowy clouds. 
It is among my favorites, if not my favorite, smear-ripened cheese. In our group of 8 tasters, 6 named it in the top 5 of their favorites of the 26 cheeses we tasted. 

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