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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Chaource AOP; One of France's Greatest Cheeses. The Cheese takes its Name From Chaource Village in Champagne-Ardenne.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Chaource AOP cheese and Chaource the village.
Chaource AOP is a 50% fat, cow’s milk cheese and when ripe is creamy, crumbly and spreadable. It tastes somewhat similar to a Brie and has a mild mushroom smell with an edible rind. Most farm-produced cheeses are made with unpasteurized milk with dairies producing pasteurized versions.  Similarities to Brie exist as they do in other cheeses like Coulommiers, but Chaource has a different texture and that makes the final taste quite different.

Chaource cheese bought in a supermarket.

Photograph courtesy of  Rubber slippers in Italy

The cheese is matured for a minimum of two weeks before being sold. Then in the cool cellars of the better cheese shops it will be allowed to age for another 30 to 45 days. When you buy this cheese, the center should be slightly soft and yield to the light pressure of a finger. In a fromagerie, a cheese shop, you may request a cheese that will be ready for the same evening or a cheese that will be ready in ten days or two weeks. For more about buying cheese in France and taking them home click here. Chaource cheeses are available in small wheels weighing from 250 – 500 grams and 8- 10 cm high.

Newly made Chaource cheeses beginning the maturing process.
Photograph courtesy of net_efekt.
The village of Chaource
The pretty village of Chaource from where the cheese took its name has just over 1,000 inhabitants. It is in the department of Aube in the region of the Champagne-Ardenne. Monks originally made the cheese and its history may be traced to the 15th century. At that time, the monks knew nothing about departments and regions, and so historically Chaource is a cross-border cheese. Just over 50% of the production comes from farms and dairies around the village of Chaource. The rest is made over the regional border the in the department of Yonne in Burgundy.

The village of Chaource.
Photograph courtesy of net_efect.
The wines that pair well with the cheese.
Depending on your location, the wines recommended to pair with this cheese will vary greatly. Rather obviously, in a restaurant close to the village of Chaource it will be Champagne. In Burgundy, the wines offered are endless, but will include Burgundy's excellent sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne
Chaource makes the big time.
While the recipe for this cheese dates back to the Middle Ages, until sixty years or so ago it was just considered a good local cheese. Then came travelers, industry and better roads and cheese gourmets. With the increase in demand, the farmers organized to make sure that the cheese was only made to agreed high standards.  Finally in 1996 the cheese Chaource received its AOC grading. From France’s over four hundred registered cheeses less than 50 have the right to an AOC, now AOP label.  For more about AOC and AOP grades and labels click here.
The Chaource cheese museum.
Of course, the village of Chaourse has a cheese museum. That is their Musée du Fromage à Chaource which is dedicated to this cheese alone; at the end of a visit you are offered a tasting.  On the second Sunday in October the village has a Fête de Fromage, their cheese fete. If you are in the area visit and enjoy the demonstrations of cheese and butter making as well as tastings. N.B.: Always double-check the dates with the French Tourist Information Offices. Dates do change.

The English language website for Chaource  and the immediate area is:

This website also gives information on other local products including honey, cultivated mushrooms, cider and more.
Visiting the area around Chaource.
The village of Chaource and the area around it is a wonderful place to visit. To the north just 15km (9 miles) from the village is the Parc Naturel Régional de la Forêt d'Orient, the natural regional park of the Forest d'Orient. Shades of the Knights Templar, they once owned the land upon which the park was created.

A trail in the park.
Photograph courtesy of monnuage
This park is large and covers over 750 sq km (290 sq miles); it includes lovely villages and lakes apart from areas covered with heavy forest.  The park is a very popular vacation spot and the lakes are centers for swimming and water sports. The lakes are also stocked and that makes them very popular with amateur fishermen and women.

Park your yacht in the lake of the Forêt d'Orient,
Photograph courtesy of Patricia Aubertin.
The park only has a French language website, but Bing and Google translate it very well:
The village of Chaource is  just 43 km (27 miles)s from Chablis in Burgundy where I first tasted the cheese.  Chablis does not produce this cheese, but the wine pairs very well with it. The small town of Chablis and the area around it is also good place to enjoy the cuisine of Burgundy with Chaource on the cheese plate at the end.
If you are staying in Paris and have access to a car then consider  a wonderful day trip can be a visit to Chaource. There are plenty of interesting and enjoyable stops along the way. For example from Paris drive to Melun, 45 km (28 miles) away; Melun is the home of one of the only two AOP Brie cheeses.  Then visit one of the two incredible Chateaus that are on your way. Choose the Château de Vaux le Vicomte  which is just  10 minutes away, 6 km (4 miles) from Melun, or choose the Château de Fontainebleau just 17 km (11 miles)  away.  After visiting either of the Chateaus for an enjoyable two and-a-half to three hour visit have lunch in the area. Then it is just a 145 km (90 miles), a pleasant one and half hour drive, to Chaource. The return drive to Paris is a two hour drive.

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
Copyright 2010, 2015.

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