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Friday, September 12, 2014

Reblochon Cheese AOP. One of the greatest cheeses from the Savoie, France.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

A Reblochon de Savoie.
The word fruitier on the label shows that this cheese is made in a dairy.
Photograph courtesy of Gani Nañagas.
Reblochon comes from the Savoie mountains
Reblochon AOP/AOC is wonderful 45% fat, soft, (creamy when ripe) cow’s cheese made with non-pasteurized milk and aged for four to eight weeks. The aging of this cheese is in carried out in caves and heat and humidity controlled stores called frutiers; the cheese is turned and cleaned very two days. The cheese has a clean, slightly nutty, taste and when ripe the rind is a beige color and it may be eaten. Nearly all of the cheese is produced in the valley of Thônes  in the department of Savoie, Savoy, in the Rhône-Alpes. There are two forms of this cheese.  The cheese we usually see is the Reblochon Laitier, also called the Reblochon Frutier, (produced in dairies);  this cheese will have a red label somewhere on the packaging. The other and more expensive version, and a little tastier option,  is the Reblochon Fermier (produced on farms) that is easily identified by  a  green label pressed into the rind.

A Reblochon Fermier.
Its identifying green label is pushed into the rind, just left of center.
Photograph courtesy of Clement Belleudy.
Reblochon Fermier is one of only three French Cheeses
 that must be produced in the high pastures.
The Reblochon Fermier is one of the only three French AOP cheeses that must be made by the farmers in the high pastures where the cows graze. Each farmer must make his or her own cheese and cannot work with the milk from other farms. The other two cheeses are the Salers AOP that comes from the department of Cantal in the Auvergne and the Beaufort Chalet d'Alpage AOC also from the Savoie. When these cows come down from the mountains for the winter, their milk cannot be used for the same cheeses. These  AOP cheese are not the only cheeses produced on mountain farms; however, these three are known throughout France and trusted for their AOP label.
For more about the meaning of AOC and the change to AOP click here.
Reblochon Fermier is not always available.

Not all cheese shops, outside the Savoie, will stock Reblochon Fermier as it is more expensive; furthermore, it is also only available, at most, eight months a year. The cheese may be aged from four to eight weeks but when ripe this cheese and its dairy made brother should be eaten within two weeks; you do not want an over-ripe Reblochon. Today the entire production of farm-made cheese is made by fewer than 150 farmers; less and less farmers want to spend five to six months of the year, making cheese in the mountains. That means less farm made cheese and higher prices.

A farm in the Aravis Massif.
The large barn hold the cows in winter.
Photograph courtesy of marthasadie.
I had enjoyed Reblochon cheese over quite a few years, and it was always on my list to take home when I visited France.  When in the Savoie, I had my first Reblochonade also called a Tartiflette, I learned to appreciate the cheese when it was not on a cheese plate or restaurant trolley.

Reblochon is a cheese that will be on many menus.
Reblochonades and similar dishes using baked Reblochon are on menus all over the Savoie.   For a real Reblochonades/Tartiflette a whole Reblochon cheese  is baked, traditionally that was in a particular oven made for the purpose, though that is rarely seen today. Then the melted cheese will be served over boiled potatoes with some recipes adding crème fraîche to the cheese. The cheese and potatoes is the Reblochonade and to this may be added on the side bacon, local dried meats, sasuages or ham. The meats will be on the menu as charcuteries and since the Savoie has many special dried meats and lots of different cured hams when ordering the side dish ask for more about the meats served as some are themselves unique.Other traditional accompaniments eaten with a Reblochonade are cornichons and pickled onions.

A Reblochonade/Tartiflette with meat, ham and a sausage.
Photograph courtesy of Jerry smile
To accompany your meal choose one of the fine Savoie white wines for a total Savoyard experience. Choosing a white wine in the Savoie will not be difficult as the two Savoie departments produce very few reds. I am not a wine maven, but I know what I like and on a week’s vacation near Annecy I had the opportunity to try three different wineries versions of  the Roussette de Savoie AOP white wine.  The wines were from different grades, years and their prices varied a great deal, but all were enjoyed. Finding the best Roussette de Savoie AOP white wine will require another trip to the Savoie; I think for a month at least.

The power behind the throne.
The cows who produce the milk in the high pastures.
Photograph courtesy of Patrick Mayon.  
On another menu at a lakeside restaurant near Annecy was a listing for a Tartiflette Végétarienne, a vegetarian version of the traditional Reblochonade  dish without the bacon or cold meats. So for all those who believe you cannot find vegetarian dishes in France then visit the Savoie.
Practically every restaurant in the Savoie, from a Pizza shop to a Michelin Starred restaurant will have at least one dish made using Reblochon  on their menus:

Lakeside Annecy restaurant.
Photograph courtesy of Rafael Lopez.
See on Savoie menus:
L'Omelette des Aravis au Lard et au Reblochon-   An omelette in the manner or the Aravis served with bacon and Reblochon. The Aravis Massif, mountains, apart from being one of the very popular winter skiing areas is, in its valleys, where they make Reblochon cheese.  In the summer, much of this area  is a center for  people touring, hiking, and looking  at the incredible countryside, beautiful villages and considering many of the Savoie cheeses.

Velouté de Petit Pois au Reblochon- A velvety petit pois soup made with added Reblochon cheese.
Savoie Pizza 4 FROMAGES: Tomates, Jambon, Champignons, Roquefort,  Chevre, Reblochon, Mozzarella. This pizza shop offering was clearly the Savoie take on the Italian pizza Quattro Formaggi, their four cheese pizza. Here the four cheeses are all from the Savoie: Persillé des Aravis,  a local goat’s cheese, Reblochon and a local mozzarella.
Burger Savoyard: 180 gr Steak Haché, Rösti, Reblochon, Salade, Tomate, Oignons, Cornichons,  Sauce Blanche. A Savoyard 180 gram cheeseburger made with rösti, which are finely chopped or grated potatoes and Reblochon, and served with a salad of salad greens, tomatoes, onions, cornichons and a white sauce.

Skiing in the Aravis Massif.
Photograph courtesy of
Croustillant de Reblochon de Savoie sur Son Lit de Mesclun  - Crispy grilled Reblochon cheese served on a mesclun salad A mesclun is  a green salad made with at least five different salad greens.
Filet de Poulet Sauce Reblochon – Breast of chicken served with a Reblochon flavored sauce.
The sizes and weights of Reblochon cheese

The standard Reblochon cheese weighs approximately 450 grams (16  Oz) and measures approximately 14 cm (5 ½”)  across and about 3–4 cm thick. Marketing demands have also created a market for smaller cheeses and so you may now buy the same cheese, with the same taste, under the name Petit Reblochon or Petit Reblochon de Savoie. These smaller cheeses weigh about 250 grams (9 Oz) and are about 9cms in diameter (3.5”).  The Petit Reblochon size is just about perfect for making a Reblochnade for two diners.
Bringing Reblochon home

Genuine Reblochon is a semi-hard cheese made with unpasteurized milk and so it cannot be legally brought into the USA; however, Reblochon is imported into the UK. .For more about buying cheese in France, taking it home and storing it when you get home click here.
The history of Reblochon cheese and its name.

Reblochon is one of the oldest cheeses in the Savoie and indeed its history can be traced to the 14th century.  At that time, the farmers rented grazing lands (alpages) from landowners, and paid their rent daily in milk. From that tradition comes the cheese’s name; the farmers would have a second milking after the rent collectors had left and Reblochon was made with that milk.
The language spoken, at that time, was Savoyard, a dialect containing French, Italian and Occitan, and the word reblochi, in  Savoyard, means to milk again. The Savoyard language is still used by a minority of the  residents of the Savoie who still speak the original dialect.  There are also groups working to make Savoyard a familiar language again. In France, there are over twenty languages spoken apart from French. Over fifty percent of French citizens, as well as speaking perfect French, speak or understand a second traditional language.
Where the cheese is made and visiting.
Most Reblochon cheese is produced in the beautiful Thônes valley in the Aravis massif. The attractive town of Thônes has a population of approximately 6,000 and there are other beautiful small villages in the area. The area has an English language website.

The town of Thônes in its valley.
Photograph courtesy of Christophe Delaere.
On the website  above click on the menu bar Discover and then click on the drop down menu on  Country and Taste. From that page, you will be able to see information on farms, dairies, markets and where to eat. Not to be ignored when dining in the area is the local cider called Biscantin which goes well with all the cheeses of the area.

Biscantin Cider.
Photograph courtesy  of
There are many excellent cheeses made in the Savoie including Abondance, Beaufort, Chevrotin, Emmental de Savoie, Persillé des Aravis, Persillé de Tignes, Raclette de Savoie, Tamié, Tome des Bauges, Tomme de Savoie plus Reblochon and more. If you are going to be in the Savoie consider visiting one of the 60 fairs and exhibitions that celebrate different Savoie cheeses.  Most of these cheese fairs and celebrations are held between May and September, and  while the web site below gives dates and places it is in French; however,  the Google and Bing Translation programs will give you a clear picture of  what is happening and where and when to go and join in a Savoie cheese celebration.
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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