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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourme d'Ambert AOP - One of France's Finest Mild Blue Cheeses. The Fourme d'Ambert in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu.
Bryan G. Newman
Updated June 2018

Fourme d’Ambert

The Fourme d’Ambert, AOC/AOP documented history goes back three hundred years and probably was produced earlier.  The producers claim that its history goes back to the Druids worshipping in the Forez Mountains.

The Fourme d’Ambert is a 50% fat, (28% fat per 100 grams) cow’s milk cheese, with a blue mold.  Despite being a blue-veined cheese, it is smooth and relatively mild.  It is one of the few French AOP cheeses only made from pasteurized milk. The blue mold in this cheese comes from the penicillium roqueforti which is now added artificially; then the cheese is allowed to age and develop its taste and texture for 4 to 8 weeks in humid cellars.  Even when matured for the full eight weeks this cheese is still far milder than most other blue cheeses.
The word fourme which is part of this and other French cheese's names has nothing to do with the type of cheese, fourme refers to the form, the shape, of the cheese and the container, into which the cheese is poured.  The regulation shape of a whole Fourme d'Ambert is a cylinder 11 cm (4.3 “) in diameter, by 22 cm (8.7 “) high. A whole cheese weighs approximately 1.5 kg (3.3lbs).

Taking the Fourme d'Ambert home.

Fourme d'Ambert like most blue cheeses does not have a rind and keeps very well without one.  When buying to take this cheese home have a wedge cut and wrapped well in plastic wrap; then it will travel well for one or two days. At home keep it in the refrigerator, never the freezer; well wrapped in plastic wrap it will keep well for a month or more. For more about buying cheese in France and taking it home click here:

Ambert on Market day with its round townhall in the background.
Fourme d’Ambert on French Menus:

Asperges Blanches à la Fourme d'Ambert, Jambon de Vendee – White asparagus served with a Fourme d’Ambert sauce and the Vendée ham. Asparagus and ham are often paired, and here hot white asparagus has a Fourme d’Ambert sauce and is accompanied by with the ham from Vendee.

Entrecôte Charolaise (Environ 300 G) à la Fourme d'Ambert. – A grilled, or fried entrecote from the highly rated Charolaise beef (approximately 300 grams (11 oz )) prepared with Fourme d’Ambert cheese.

Magret d'Oie Grille à la Fourme d'Ambert  - Grilled goose breast prepared with Fourme d’Ambert cheese.
Breakfast in Ambert

Salade Auvergnate: Salade, Croutons, Fourme d’Ambert, Tomate, Jambon Cru, Noix – Those who live in the Auvergne are called Auvergnates and so are their local recipes.  Here an Auvergnate salad is prepared with mixed salad greens, croutons, Fourme d”Ambert cheese, tomatoes, cured ham, and walnuts.

Truffade à la Fourme d’Ambert avec Jambon Sec, Saucisson et Salade – The truffade is a traditional Auvergnate thick potato pancake made from thinly sliced potatoes fried in goose fat. Here it is made with the Forme d’Ambert; otherwise, it would be a local tomme cheese, accompanied by a local cured ham, a sausage, and a salad.

The town of Ambert that gave this cheese its names is a small town of under 8,000 in the department of Puy-de-Dôme in the old region Auvergne. In 1-1-2016 the region of Auvergne joined the Rhône-Alpes and became a super-region called the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.  For the visitor the changes are only administrative, the name of the cheese will not change.

A street in the town of Ambert.

The Auvergne’s partner in the new super region, the Rhône Alps, has its own AOP cheeses and they are listed at the end of this link. 
If you are near the town of Ambert, then stop by and visit the town’s Maison de la Fourme d’Ambert et de Fromages d’Auvergne AOP, the House of the Fourme d’Ambert and the other four Auvergne AOP cheeses.  Here, for a small contribution to the local economy, you may taste all five of the Auvergne's AOP cheeses. The Fourme d’Ambert AOP,  the Bleu d'Auvergne, Cantal,  Saint-Nectaire, and Salers: Your entrance fee includes a glass of wine, and as you may expect that will be a Côte d'Auvergne AOC.  Despite the emphasis on the most famous of the Auvergne’s cheeses, the region produces many other excellent cheeses that do not have that AOP label.  For other local cheeses check a local restaurant’s cheese trolley as well as a local fromagerie, a cheese shop. 

Fourme d’Ambert

Check the opening times of the House of the Fourme d’Ambert and the other four Auvergne AOP cheese on their website. The site is in French only but easily understood using the Bing or Google translate apps:

The Auvergne has a Route des Fromages AOP d'Auvergne, an Auvergne cheese road with plenty of dairies to visit and appreciate their wares.  Along the route and close by are vineyards, and of course restaurants.  The Auvergne cheese association has the route's map on their website along with dates for all the local cheese celebrations. Also on the site will be the dates for the town’s Fourmofolies which celebrates all the local produce.  The dates for the Fourmofolies moves between April and May every year with the dates on the same website. Like the other website this link is in French so use the Bing and Google translate apps:

Fourme d’Ambert and Fourme de Montbrison
Linked forever to Ambert and its cheese is a town called Montbrison and their cheese. Ambert is in the department of Loire in the old region of the Rhône-Alpes; as the crow flies  Montbrison is just 30 km (19 miles) away from Ambert, about 40 km (25 miles) by road. 

In Montbrison they make a very very similar cheese to the Fourme d’Ambert AOC; however there it is called the Fourme de Montbrison, AOC.  When you taste both cheeses the Fourme d’Ambert and the Fourme de Montbrison please remember that I did say they are very similar cheeses not the same. It is a long story, too long for this blog, but one cheese, now with very very slight differences has ended up with two names; each with its own right to an AOP label.
Other Rhône-Alps AOP cheeses:
Abondance AOP -  A hard, yellow cow’s milk cheeses.
Beaufort AOP - A hard, yellow cow’s milk cheese.
Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage AOP  - A mild, pasteurized, cow’s milk, blue cheese.
Chevrotin AOP - A a soft, goat's milk cheese.
Fourme de Montbrison AOP - A mild cow’s milk blue cheese,
Picodon AOP or  Picadon de l'Ardèche AOP-  The first goat's milk cheese to be awarded an AOC.
Reblochon AOP -  A soft, cow’s milk cheese.
Rigotte AOP or Rigotte de Condrieu AOP -  A soft, goat’s milk cheese.
Saint-Nectaire AOP - A creamy and nutty, semi-firm, cow’s milk cheese.
Tome des Bauges AOP -  A semi-hard, cow’s milk cheese.
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Bryan G. Newman
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