Abondance AOP - One of the Most Celebrated Cheeses of the Savoie, Rhône Alps, France.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman




Abondance AOP
Photo credited to JM Gaillard SIFA
Abondance AOC/AOP is a 45% fat, semi-dry, cow’s milk cheese made from non-pasteurized milk.  It is aged for at least five months and mostly made on the farms where the cows are milked. The cheese is a light yellow to ivory with some small holes and is firm but feels soft on the tongue; it has a light nutty and very slightly salty taste. The rind is brown to dark brown. Each cylinder of cheese is about 35 -40cm in diameter and 8cm high and weighs from 7 -10 kilos (10-22 lbs).

Members of a youth group in the Valley of Abondance.
Abondance comes from the northern part of the department of Haute-Savoie in the Rhône Alps, close to the border with Switzerland. (Since 1-1-2016 the Rhône Alps are part of the super region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes). This is the French Alps, and in the winter the cows are brought into warm barns while the whole area is filled with ski resorts. Despite that, long before skiing was a sport the Abondance valley and the town of Abondance gave their name to the cheese. They also gave their name to the unique Abondance breed of cows who with the Taurine and Montbéliarde breeds provide the milk for the Abondance cheese. The cheese is claimed to have a history that began in the 6th century and assuredly has been made locally since the 13th century.

The valley of Abondance, Lac d'Arvouin
N.B. The Corn d'Abondance seen on some menu is not a cheese; it’s a mushroom. The Horn of Plenty, the Black Chanterelle or the Black Trumpet Mushroom.  The Horn of Plenty mushroom will also be on French menus as Craterelles or the Trompette des Morts.
Abondance on French menus:

Berthoud Abondance -  A Berthoud is a traditional baked cheese dish from the Savoie.  The cheese will be baked together with one of the excellent local white wines and sometimes flavored with a Madeira wine. In any case, when the cheese and wine ready you will be served potatoes, bread and dried meats to dip into the dish and enjoy.

Fines Tranches de Fromages d'Abondance Mélangées au Vin Blanc de Savoie et Gratinées au Four, Servi Avec de la Charcuterie de Savoie, Salade Verte et Pommes de Terre – Thin slices of Abondance cheese mixed with a Savoie white wine and browned in the oven, and then served with cold meats and sausages from the Savoie along with a green salad and potatoes. The Savoie has a tradition of excellent air-dried meat and cured ham, along with bacon and pork sausages.

Fondue Savoyarde aux Cèpes, Beaufort, Abondance, Emmental de Savoie – Here the Fondue is made with Abondance AOP, Beaufort AOP and French Emmental de Savoie IGP cheese with cepes, the French porcini mushroom.  The cheeses will be melted in a white wine, with a small amount of garlic. Since the taste of the fondue changes with the percentages of the different cheeses used every restaurant’s fondue has its unique flavor. Some Fondue Savoyards will benefit from the addition of the Savoie’s much-appreciated kirsch cherry liquor.

Cheese fondues are eaten with pieces of French bread that are dipped in the melted cheese on a special fork. Each diner will have been given his or her fourchette à fondue, a distinctive, long, fondue fork, which keeps the diner’s hand away from the heat of the communal pot of melted cheese in which the bread will be dipped.   N.B. These fondue forks become extremely hot at the tip, and they have burned many a tongue.  I speak with experience so transfer the bread to your plate, and then to an ordinary fork before eating.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s everyone who went skiing would come home talking endlessly about the fondues.  Today Fondue Savoyarde has lost some of its international glimmer; however, it still enjoyed in the homes of the region as it was for hundreds of years and it will be on menus in the ski resorts.

Fondue Savoyarde.

Tagliatelles Aux Girolles, Fromage d'Abondance et Jambon Cru de Savoie 12 Mois – Tagliatelle (the long thin flat pasta about 8 -10mm (0.3” – 0.4”) wide) served with the chantarelle mushrooms prepared with the Abondance cheese, and served with thin slices of a 12-month cured ham from the Savoie. The Jambon de la Savoie is one of France’s most appreciated cured hams. The ham will be added just before serving as cured ham, like virgin olive oil, loses it taste if cooked. This dish with its pasta, wild mushrooms, Abondance cheese, and aged Savoie ham makes my mouth water just writing about it. 

Tarte au Fromage d'Abondance, Petite Salade Verte Garnie aux Noix – A tart au fromage, a cheese cake, made with the Abondance cheese served with a small green salad garnished with walnuts.

Tarte au Fromage

Travelling and buying Abondance AOP cheese

The taste of the Abondance AOP cheese changes with age so a fromagerie, a cheese shop, may have more than one cheese on sale. Then they may let you have a sliver each cheese to choose from.  Abondance, like other semi-hard cheeses, travels well and in any case most fromageries offer vacuum packing for travel; otherwise, keep the cheese wrapped in plastic wrap. At home, this cheese will keep well for a month more if properly wrapped and kept in in the refrigerator, not a freezer. Freezers kill the taste of most cheeses. Take the cheese out of the refrigerator at least half an hour before serving.  Enjoy Abondance AOP together with a good Savoie white wine; they should bring back good memories of your travels. For more about buying cheese in France and taking it home click here.

Abondance on sale.
On your travels, or in a good cheese shop at home you may encounter other excellent Savoie cheeses: Beaufort AOP, Chevrotin AOP, Emmental de Savoie IGP, French Gruyere IGP, Raclette IGP, Reblochon AOP, Tome de Bauges AOP, Tomme de Savoie IGP.
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Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman




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