Vacherin Mont d’Or: an Alpine Delicacy
Rich, gooey and spectacularly flavourful, Vacherin Mont d’Or is the ultimate seasonal treat for cheese-lovers. If you like the sound of this ultra-soft washed-rind cheese, read on to find out when to buy it, how to eat it, and what makes it so good.
Special and seasonal
French Vacherin Mont d’Or – as opposed to Swiss Vacherin, which is produced using pasteurised milk – is a raw-milk cheese made in the Jura region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. Mont D’Or itself is the highest mountain in the French department of Doubs. This is where France meets Switzerland.
A true jewel of the French cheese-making tradition, the production of Vacherin is tightly controlled, with AOP designation of origin. It’s available only from mid-September to April. Many connoisseurs prefer to buy it from October onwards, when its taste is stronger and more distinctive.
The key to Vacherin is les vaches: the Montbéliarde and Simmental cows whose milk is used to make it. In fact, the name also means cheese from le vacher – the farmer who looks after the cows. In the spring and summer, these cows graze the slopes of the Jura. The result is the milk for Comté, the nutty Alpine semi-hard cheese that’s the French equivalent of Swiss Gruyère. In the winter, the cows are brought inside and fed on hay, and that’s when they produce the uniquely rich milk that makes Vacherin so delicious.
Wood is another important component of Vacherin. Because the cheese is so soft and runny, it’s matured and sold in boxes made of local spruce. This gives Vacherin a particular scent and flavour that adds to its appeal.
How to enjoy Vacherin Mont d’Or
Vacherin can be enjoyed exactly as it is. Let the cheese come to room temperature and scoop out the insides with fresh baguette or a spoon. Plenty of cheese-lovers prefer it this way.
If you want to showcase Vacherin at its spectacular best, though, a few minutes in the oven transform it into a dish fit for royalty. Just unwrap the cheese and put the open box on a baking tray – you can wrap it in foil to avoid singeing the wood. Baking it in the wooden box without the lid is a wonderful way of presenting this cheese. Set your oven to 200ºC, and leave the Vacherin in until it’s a melty, bubbling delight (around 20 minutes).
There are lots of ways to spruce up your baked Vacherin. One tried-and-tested favourite is to pierce the top of the cheese and slide in slivers of garlic and sprigs of rosemary. You can also cut it open and pour in your favourite white wine, cognac or brandy. But a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt is more than satisfactory. Vacherin also goes well with honey, and with shaved truffles.
You can serve your baked Vacherin raclette-style with boiled new potatoes, cornichons and charcuterie, or mop it up with hunks of bread. Vacherin is traditionally paired with white wine: why not try a Savagnin from the Jura region, or the distinctive local vin jaune?
As your premier source of authentic French food online, BonneBouffe stocks Vacherin Mont d’Or when it’s in season. And we have plenty of other cheeses to satisfy your cravings all year round. If you’d like to stay up to date with our offerings, enter your email below to join our mailing list.