Reblochon Cheese AOP. One of the Great Cheeses From the Savoie, France.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


A Reblochon de Savoie AOP.
The green label indicates a farm made cheese.
Reblochon AOP  - A  great 26% fat, soft, creamy, mild, unpasteurized cow's milk cheese. Aged for four to eight weeks and just spreadable (when ripe), the cheese is ivory-colored, lightly nutty-tasting, with a light beige edible rind.  

I had enjoyed Reblochon on a restaurant’s cheese plate or trolley in many parts of France, and it was always on the list of cheeses to be bought home. Then some twenty-plus years I was to enjoy it in its home in the two departments of the Savoie that are set in France’s Rhône-Alpes.

The Reblochon Laitier

There are two types of Reblochon. The cheese we usually see is the Reblochon Laitier, also called the Reblochon Fruitier, produced by dairies; these cheeses have a round red label on the packaging. The other and more expensive version is the Reblochon Fermier, where a farmer will have made his or her own cheese; they are marked with a green label,

The Reblochon Fermier

The Reblochon Fermier cheese is made with the milk from a single herd, during the period the herd grazes in the high pastures from May through October. Reblochon Fermier cheeses are marked with a green label pressed into the rind. The cheeses are collected once a week by specialists called fruiters who will age them in caves as well as above-ground heat and humidity controlled aging stores. The Reblochon Fermiers are aged separately from the dairy produced cheeses. During their aging, both cheeses are turned and washed every two days to prevent the growth of mold, which might affect the taste  (More about the Reblochon Fermier in the latter part of this post).

During the winter, the cows eat the same grasses, herbs, and wildflowers that will have been collected from the high pastures and stored, but no cheese produced in the winter may be labeled Fermier, farm-made.
A member of the production team.
The Reblochonade and the Tartiflette
the most famous cheese dishes made with reblochon.

To begin with, there were two recipes; the Reblochonade was made with a whole Reblochon cheese baked in the oven with onions and served over boiled potatoes with most recipes adding crème fraîche to the cheese. Served alongside the Reblochonade will be local dried meats, sausages, bacon, or cured ham. Other traditional accompaniments that are eaten with a Reblochonade are cornichons and small white pickled onions.

The recipe of a Tartiflette was the same as the Reblochinade but made with added lardons, smoked or salted bacon pieces, in the recipe. Today, the two dishes have become one, and any differences depend on a particular chef’s preferences. Both are sometimes made with the cheese poured over bread or toast as well as or instead of potatoes. Under one name or another, these dishes will be on menus all over the Savoie.

A Reblochonade/Tartiflette with potatoes,
ham, salami type sausage, and salad.
There is more to a Reblochonade or Tartiflette than just the cheese as the Savoie region has many exceptional dried meats and cured hams that may accompany them. Ask for more information about the meats served; otherwise, you may be missing something very special. One of the best-known hams is the Jambon de la Savoie, a cured boneless ham made in both Savoie departments. The ham is salted and steamed before being air-cured for at least nine months. These ham are aged for a minimum of 12 months and takes place in Alpine curing sheds at an altitude of 650 m. The sausages can include pork, veal, wild boar, duck, and more.

The original Reblochonades/Tartiflette were baked in a particular oven called a Berthoud made for the purpose, though that is rarely seen today. Still, the name may be on a menu and now you will know what it is.
A Lakeside Annecy hotel and restaurant.
At a lakeside restaurant near Annecy, there was a listing for a Tartiflette Végétarienne, a vegetarian version of the traditional dish with various fresh and cooked vegetables replacing the ham, the bacon, and cold meats. So for all those who believe you cannot find great vegetarian dishes in France, visit the Savoie.
Other Reblochon dishes on menus in the Savoie:

Croustillant de Reblochon de Savoie sur Son Lit de Mesclun  - Crispy grilled Reblochon served on a bed of a mesclun salad. A traditional mesclun is a green salad made with at least five different salad greens, but do not been surprised to find France’s favorite Haricot Vert, green beans, and other additions incorporated.
Filet de Poulet Sauce ReblochonChicken breast with a Reblochon flavored sauce.

Omelette des Aravis au Lard et au Reblochon - An omelet in the manner or the Aravis served with bacon and Reblochon. The Aravis Massif, mountains, apart from being one of France’s most popular winter skiing areas are, 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 enjoying many of the Savoie cheeses. This omelet will not be a French breakfast dish, most likely it will be on a  light lunch menu.
Savoie Pizza 4 FROMAGES: Tomates, Jambon, Champignons, Persillé des Aravis Chevre, Reblochon, Mozzarella – A four cheese pizza. This pizza shop offering was clearly the Savoie take on the Italian pizza Quattro Formaggi, a  very popukar four-cheese Italian pizza. Here the four kinds of cheese are all from the Savoie, Reblochon, Persillé des Aravis, a blue cheese, Chevre, a local goat’s cheese, and a local mozzarella. The Italian influence is felt in the Savoie area as these two departments were part of Italy until 1860 . Then as part of an agreement that created the modern State of Italy together with the Mediterranean city of Nice they became part of France. Still today, there are family and linguistic connections across the valleys.

Tartiflettes are often baked over bread or toast like this one.
Photograph courtesy of Clayton Parker
Velouté de Petit Pois au Reblochon - A velvety soup of petit pois peas made with added Reblochon cheese.
The milk comes cows in from the high pastures
in the Savoie mountains
Photograph courtesy of Evim@ge ON/OFF

Burger Savoyard: 180 gr Steak Haché, Rösti, Reblochon, Salade, Tomate, Oignons, Cornichons,  Sauce Blanche.-  A Savoyard 180-gram cheeseburger made with Reblochon and accompanied by rösti and a salad of salad greens, tomatoes, onions, cornichons, and a white butter sauce, Rostis are originally a Swiss creation of grated and fried potato pancakes that often contain onions and some herbs. There are different versions of rostis, some sweet and others salted, and some are very close to a Jewish Latke. 
Skiing in the Aravis Massif.
The sizes of a 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 (1 1/2") thick. Marketing demands have also created a market for smaller cheeses called a Petit Reblochon de Savoie. These smaller cheeses weigh about 250 grams (9 Oz) and are about 9 cm in diameter (3.5”). The Petit Reblochon size is nearly perfect for making a Reblochnade for two diners. Other shapes are made using halves of the regular large-sized cheese.
What makes the farm made Reblochon special.

The Reblochon Fermier (farm-made) with the green label is one of only three French AOP cheeses made in the high pastures where the cows graze. Each farmer makes his or her own cheese and cannot work with the milk from other farms. It is only available, at most, eight months a year. And made on fewer than 150 farms: fewer and fewer 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.

Reblochon on sale in Carrefour
The red label indicates a cheese produced in a dairy.

The two other French AOP cheeses that must be made on the farms in the high pastures  They are the Salers AOP that comes from the department of Cantal and the Beaufort Chalet d'Alpage AOC, also from the Savoie departments.  Like the Reblochon Ferrmier, when these cows come down from the mountains for the winter, their milk cannot be used for cheeses that are called farm-made. Other AOP cheeses may be produced on farms in the mountains, but that is not a condition of their certification.    
For more about the meaning of AOC/AOP labels on France’s foods, click here. For the labels on France’s wine, click here.

Nearly all of the Reblochon cheese is produced in the department of Haute-Savoie, in the valley of Thônes in the Rhône-Alpes of Eastern France bordering Italy. The rest comes from the Val d’Arly in the department of Savoie. Since 1-1-2016 
the Rhône-Alpes is part of the super region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. 

The history of Reblochon cheese and its name.

Reblochon is one of the oldest cheeses in the Savoie, and indeed its history can undoubtedly be traced to the 14th century. At that time, the farmers rented grazing lands (alpages) from landowners and paid their rent as a percentage of 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.
Choose your Reblochon

Visiting where Reblochon is made
Most Reblochon cheese is produced in the beautiful Thônes valley in the Aravis massif. The attractive small 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.
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 region.
Biscantin Cider.
The language spoken, at that time, was Savoyard, a dialect containing French, Italian, and Occitan, and the word reblochon, in Savoyard, means to milk again. The Savoyard language is vanishing though it's still used by some of the residents of the Savoie who still speak the original dialect. There are also groups working to make Savoyard a familiar language again; Savoyard is one of twenty languages still spoken apart from French. Over fifty percent of French citizens, as well as speaking perfect French, speak or understand a second traditional language. The most well-known local languages are Occitan and Occitan dialects that include Provencal and Nicoise.

The town of Thônes in its valley.

There are many other excellent cheeses made in the Savoie, with the most famous being Abondance AOP, Beaufort AOP, Chevrotin AOP, Tome des Bauges AOP, and Reblochon AOP. Then comes the Emmental de Savoie IGP, Raclette De Savoie IGP, and Tomme De Savoie IGP. However, when you travel in the area, you will find that local fromageries, specialized cheese shops, and farmers' markets have many other wonderful local cheeses. They include the cow’s milk blue cheeses Persillé des Aravis, Persillé de Tignes and the semi-soft pale yellow cow’s milk Tamié made by the monks of the Abbaye de Tamié. Many cheeses have limited production, and that means they cannot apply for exclusive labels, but they still are wonderful cheeses.

Local market in Thônes

If you are going to be in the Savoie, consider visiting one of the 60 fairs and exhibitions that celebrate different Savoie cheeses and wines along with eve more that celebrate other foods. Most of these cheese fairs and other celebrations are held between May and September. The web site below gives dates and places; it is in French, but the Google and Bing Translation programs will provide you with a clear picture of what is happening along with where and when to go and join in a Savoie cheese celebration.

Wines to accompany a Reblochon

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.
Aging Reblochon cheeses
The small round green label seen here of every cheese shows they are farm-made cheeses.

Bringing Reblochon home

For more about buying cheese in France, taking it home and storing it when you get back, click here.


Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


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