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Friday, August 1, 2014

Maroilles AOP. Maroilles the Cheese. The Village of Maroilles That Gave the Cheese its Name.

The Maroilles AOP may also be called the Maroilles Gris de Lille.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman 

A 700 gram ripe Morailles Cheese. On the side is a baguette.
Photograph courtesy of Claire Poisson
The Maroilles Cheese.
The Maroilles AOP cheese is a flavorsome, ivory colored, 45% fat, cow’s milk cheese, made with unpasteurized milk on farms and with pasteurized milk in dairies.  Maroilles is easily identified by its orange to deep orange-red rind and its very strong smell!  Luckily, for us cheese lovers the taste is nothing like the aroma; it has a slightly sweet taste along with a creamy texture. If the cheese tastes even a little like it smells send it back! 

The maturing cheese.

Most Maroilles cheeses are matured from five - weeks to four months and all the time that the cheese maturing, it is washed in brine.  Some smaller cheeses are matured for shorter periods. As the cheese ages the rind changes from light yellow to orange and then to orange-red, the cheese itself is ivory. When the cheese is young, it may be used in cooked dishes, but a young cheese will not add much to a cheese plate. Buy a mature cheese. The rind of a mature Maroilles cheeses is edible, but it has little to add to the taste of the cheese.

The sizes of the Maroilles cheese.

The Maroilles is sold in square blocks, with the most dairy produced cheeses coming in square shapes and weighing  700 grams; the dairies produce 90% of the cheese on the market.. From farms come cheeses weighing 700 grams, and they and the dairies produce three other sizes.

The Maroilles Sorbais.  A 3/4 size  cheese that weighs approximately 550 grams and is matured for at least four weeks.

The Maroilles Mignon. A 1/2 size cheese that weighs approximately  350 grams  and matured for at least three weeks.

The Maroilles Quart.  A 1/4 size cheese that weighs approximately 180 grams and matured for at least two weeks.

The Maroilles cheese’s origins.

According to tradition, that has much history to support it, this cheese, or its forbear, was created by a monk in Abbaye de Maroilles, the Abbey of Maroilles, over 1,000 years ago.  The monks, in the days long before refrigeration, created cheeses to save surplus milk and, probably, more than half of the cheeses of France have histories linked to religious orders. The Abbey of Maroilles was destroyed during the French revolution; however, the cheese continues to be made on farms and in larger dairies in the old Thiérache and Avenois provinces of Northern France. These old provinces are today parts of the department of Aisne in the region of Picardie and the department of Nord in the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The village of Maroilles is in the department of Nord and borders Belgium

Cheeses made in a manner similar to the Maroilles AOP.

When the French finds a good tasting cheese they do not leave it alone; the recipe of the Maroilles has proven successful and in local restaurants and cheese shops, you will be offered at least two or three choices from the Maroilles family.


A cheese plate including the Maroilles
and three family members.
Photograph courtesy of Thomas Harbonnier,
Well known cheeses in the Maroilles family include the Boulette d'Avesnes, a cone shaped cheese made with added parsley chervil and tarragon; the Vieux Lille a cheese made exactly like Maroilles, but soaked for three months in brine and aged from 5-6 months, and the Abbaye de Troisvaux cheese which is washed with beer. At least another eight cheeses are connected to the Maroilles and I have not tasted them yet. That will need time and planning.
Visiting the  beautiful village of Maroilles and buying their cheese.
The old mill in Morailles.
Photograph courtesy of minikti.
The village of Maroilles is one of the most beautiful villages in France with just under 1,500 inhabitants.  Since this is the cheese’s home try the cheese in a cheese shop or if you are dining in a local restaurant make sure it is on their cheese plate before your sit down! Maroilles and its surroundings has a large number of good restaurants that offer many local dishes you will only find in the north of France.  If you do buy a cheese, or part of one, to take home, make sure that it is vacuum packed or security may have the cheese removed for its smell. At home, keep the cheese in the refrigerator, not the freezer, in plastic wrap in a separate plastic container, and then you may enjoy it for a month or more. Take it out of the refrigerator one hour before serving,  Whether you are dining or walking around this beautiful village try their excellent local cider. As a cider fan, I confirm that it has much to recommend it.  For more about French ciders see the link at the end of this post.
The Maroilles residents are busy all year round.
Here are a few dates from the  Maroilles diary:

The first Sunday in April: 
The  Green Hell  mountain bike competition.

The  Green Hell mountain biking competition, L'Enfer Vert,  has over 4,000 participants and there are other biking competitions during the year. All information is available on the local bike club’s French language website at  N.B. Google and Bing Translate provide good translations for all French language web sites.
May 1:
The Maroilles, 20 km cross-country competition.

The Maroille 20 km cross-country running competition, the 20km de Maroilles. The 4,000 plus runners run through the village and the farmland around. At the same time, there is a 20km handicapped race and for those who prefer a slower pace there is a 10 km hike. Information at the French language website:           

Join the Maroilles 20km cross country competition.

The Third  Sunday in June:
The Brocante de Maroilles and the Maroilles Crafts and Sculpture festival


On sale at the Brocante.
Photograph courtesy of kiourn.
The Brocante de Maroilles is the most famous of all Maroilles happenings. The  Brocante de Maroilles is a gigantic antique/flea market with over 600 exhibitors that takes up 6,000 meters of sidewalk space. There are always tens of thousands of visitors looking for unique and special purchases so check the website for parking places.
In conjunction with the Brocante de Maroilles, there is the Maroilles Crafts and Sculpture festival which takes place inside various village buildings and halls.  Information on both happenings may be found at the French language website:

A detail from the Art and Sculpture Festival at Maroilles.
Photograph courtesy of DaffyDuke.
The second Sunday in August: 
The Maroilles Fete de la Flamiche.

The Maroilles Fete de la Flamiche is a food festival that celebrates the Flamiche, a specialty of the area and Picardy.  The Flamiche is now a gourmet traditional specialty despite being at its most basic a pie that looks somewhat like a quiche made with cream and leaks. However, flamiches do not have a single formula and you will be offered a wide variety of flamiche creations. The Flamiche may be made with different dough and other added ingredients, though the leeks and cream will always remain. Locally, of course, the most popular additional component is the Maroilles cheese.

A flamiche.
Photograph courtesy of omgponies2.
To do justice to the Flamiche its history, its varied ingredients and methods of serving it  will need a post of its own and some more personal exploration.  The flamiche celebration in Maroilles includes workshops held by local artists and artisans, held alongside workshops for children in pottery and other crafts. There are also sales of other local products and of course the Maroilles cheese.  For more information go to the French language website and then click on Maroilles in the column on the left side. This site has links to many other food happenings in the area.
For more information on these and other celebrations in the North of France there is an English language website at:

The Matisse Museum is 17km, (10 miles) from Maroilles.

For the fans of Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954)  just 17km (10 miles) from Maroilles is Matisse’s birthplace.  Matisse was born in the small town of Le Cateau now part of the commune of Le Cateau-Cambrésis,   In 1952 Matisse himself created the original museum now set in the former arch-bishop's Fénelon Palace. The museum has 170 works by Matisse, the third largest collection in France, and there are 65 works donated by another artist born in the area Auguste Herbin (1882 - 1960).  There is also a part of the Tériade (1889-1983) collection of artists' books along with other paintings and photographs.

  Henri Matisse large seated nude.
Bronze lost-wax cast 1922-1929
 Museum Matisse Le Cateau. 
Photograph courtesy of Michael Jones 51.
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Bryan G. Newman
Copyright 2010,2014.
Behind the French Menu.
For more information on the unpublished book behind this post contact Bryan Newman

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