Monday, May 30, 2011

Cheese: Reblechon

Reblechon is a washed-rind and smear-ripened cheese originally made from raw cow's milk, but the raw milk version is no longer available in the U.S. due to laws requiring pasteurization of soft and semi-soft cheeses. 
It is an AOC (appellation d'origine controlee) cheese made in the Alps in the Haute-Savoie region (the east-central area bordering Switzerland) of France. The milk is obtained from mixing the milk of three breeds of cows: Abondance, Tarentaise and Montbeliarde, from the day's second milking. The name derives from the word "reblocher" which means to "pinch a cow's udder again." The second milking provides a richer milk. This originated in the 1300s when landowners taxed mountain farmers according to the amount of milk they produced. So the farmers didn't fully milk their cows until after the landowner had measured the yield. The cheese is put into cellars or caves to dry and is turned every two days and washed with whey. The rind is an orange-yellow color and relatively thick, but it is covered with a fine white mold which hides the rind's true color (you can see the rind color in the cross-section picture if you look closely). 
It is made in thin one pound disks so that it seems to have a very high proportion of rind for the amount of cheese. 
The texture is creamy and springy, almost elastic. 
It is often described as having a nutty taste and it is said to become bitter when overripe. As one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die, the taste is described in 1001 as "not aggressive but full, with a touch of grassiness. With fifty percent butterfat, the finish is long and satisfying." In our taste testing, we had it side by side with Taleggio, Camembert and Brie. I found it more mild and creamier than Taleggio with a taste similar to Brie. 
Judy noted it was less bitter than Taleggio. In our group of eight testers, most preferred the Reblechon to the Taleggio, except me. I liked the stronger taste of Taleggio and much preferred the Taleggio rind, which really added to its character.   

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