Savoie's Best Cheese

Reblochon cheese was first made in the XIIIth Century, in Savoie, in the Thônes valley. In that remote time, farmers rented meadows (alpages) from a landowner, and gave a proportion of the milk produced as rent. When the rent payment was to be determined, the farmers milked the cows incompletely in order to reduce the apparent production, and thus their rent; once the landowner had gone, the farmers would then conduct a second milking, which yielded a milk rich in fat. This milk was then preserved by turning it into cheese! The name Reblochon comes from patois, re-blocher, which signifies to milk again.
Reblochon is made from whole, unpasteurized milk and must meet rigorous standards to deserve the coveted Appellation d'Origine. medaillon rougemedaillon vert It takes about five litres of whole milk to produce one cheese. A ripe cheese may weigh between 450 and 550 grams.Two types of Reblochon are produced: Reblochon Fermier, identified by a green casein tag on the cheese's edge, is produced exclusively on farms in the Thônes valley area; Reblochon Fruitier, identified by a red casein tag on the flat face of the cheese, may be produced in farmers' co-ops or cheese factories within a larger area of Savoie and Haute Savoie. Connoisseurs prefer the cheeses of June, July and August, as the cows have been eating fresh young grass and flowers rather than hay; the milk and the cheese are consequently more flavorful. Because Reblochon is made from unpasteurized milk, it is seldom imported to the United States, despite the rigorous veterinary controls which guarantee a sanitary and healthful product.

vachesDédé Reblochon Fermier cheese is produced exclusively on farms near Thônes. The milk from which it is made must come from Abondance, Tarine, or Montbéliarde cows. After milking, every morning and evening, the milk is collected and warmed in a copper vat; rennet is added so that the milk will curdle.

versecoupe Once the milk has curdled, it forms a large mass which must be sliced with a comb, until the cheese particles are no larger than grains of rice. The curds are then poured into molds which are covered with a cheesecloth. The whey is collected and churned for butter.

mouleretourne The cheese is spread evenly by hand into the molds. Once the individual cheeses have begun to take shape, they can be turned over in the mold, which helps to give them their characteristic shape. The coarse cheesecloth gives the cheeses their characteristic surface texture.

retourne2pose médaillons The cheeses must solidify for a good quarter of an hour before they can be turned. Green casein medallions are then placed on each cheese as a guarantee of their production as true farm cheeses,
"Reblochon Fermier".

poidsmédaillon sur fromage The cheeses are then pressed to extract any remaining whey. Each cheese is covered with a wooden disk made of larch; a five-pound cast iron weight is then placed on top of the wooden disk. The pressure gives the cheese its compact consistency and helps to give it its texture.

cave1cave2 After a quick soak in a brine bath, the cheese is stocked in a cellar where it will age for some four weeks at a temperature not to exceed 16°C. Each cheese must be turned over every two days during the aging process. Once ripe, the cheese has a light beige crust and a buttery dough. The white "moss" on the cheese is edible and shows that the cheese was ripened correctly.
Branzin (François)

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Page and images © 1996, 2001 by Robert F. Jeantet
Updated 11 December 2001
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