What is Bethmale Cheese? A Taste of the French Pyrénées

Bethmale (FRANCE) - Cheese Origin

In the heart of the French Pyrénées, nestled amidst towering peaks and lush valleys, lies a culinary secret as old as the mountains themselves – Bethmale cheese.

This traditional delight, with its rich heritage and distinctive flavor, serves as a testament to the region’s unique gastronomy.

But what exactly is Bethmale cheese? How does it manage to capture the essence of its rugged homeland in every bite?

Journey with us as we delve into the world of this exceptional cheese, exploring its history, production process, and taste that has earned it a place of honor in the pantheon of French cheeses.

Quick Facts About Bethmale

Country of OriginFrance
Age3 to 4 months (Aged for at least two months, some versions are aged up to six months)
MilkRaw cow’s milk
Weight and shape5 to 7 kg (11 to 15 lb), Round
SizeDiameter 30 to 40 cm, Height 4.5 to 7.5 cm
AromaPungent, earthy, mushroom
Flavor ProfileMild, slightly tangy, sweet and nutty taste
TasteMild, milky, buttery, hints of mushroom and grass
PairingGamay, Roussillon, Madiran, Bordeaux
TextureSemi-soft, supple, yielding
ColorEither creamy ivory white or light brownish yellow
Historical SignificanceSaid to be the favorite cheese of French King Louis VI

What is Bethmale?

Bethmale is a type of cheese that originates from the Bethmale Valley in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France. It’s named after the valley where it’s made and is one of the most recognizable cheeses from this region.

The cheese is semi-hard with a distinctive appearance, characterized by large holes similar to those found in Swiss cheese. The rind is typically washed and ranges in color from yellow-orange to grey.

There are two main varieties of Bethmale: one made with cow’s milk and another made with goat’s milk. Each variety offers a unique flavor profile. The cheese pairs well with fruity wines such as Béarn or Tursan, and also with dark ales.

Historically, Bethmale has significant importance as it was said to be the favorite cheese of French King Louis VI, who discovered it during a hunting trip in the 12th century.

Fun fact: Bethmale was once known as the ‘fat cheese of Saint-Girons’ due to the fact that the interior glows with fat when sliced.

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What Does Bethmale Taste Like?

Bethmale is a unique cheese with a flavor profile that varies depending on its age and how it’s produced. Generally, it offers a mild, slightly tangy, sweet, and nutty taste.

As the cheese ages, its flavor becomes more pronounced. The Bethmale made from cow’s milk is described as having an impressive ‘farmyard’ quality, suggesting an earthy, rustic flavor. It’s soft in consistency and mild in taste.

The goat’s milk variety, known as Bethmale Chèvre, is described as light and floral. It’s firm, mild, and nutty. This cheese is often paired with honey for a delightful combination of flavors.

Overall, Bethmale’s taste, aroma, and earthiness can transport you to a farmyard in the mountains, epitomizing the rural, pastoral landscapes of its origin in the Pyrenees.

Bethmale Tasting Notes

Bethmale Cheese
  • Appearance: Semi-hard cheese with a distinctive look. It has large holes similar to Swiss cheese. The rind is washed and varies in color from yellow-orange to grey.
  • Texture: The texture is firm yet yielding. The cheese is creamy and melts in the mouth, leaving a soft after-feel.
  • Smell: Bethmale has a unique and inviting aroma. It gives off an earthy scent, reminiscent of the farmyards and pastoral landscapes where it’s produced.
  • Taste: The flavor is mild, slightly tangy, sweet, and nutty. The taste becomes more pronounced as the cheese ages. The cow’s milk variety has an earthy, rustic flavor, while the goat’s milk variety is light and floral.
  • Aftertaste: The aftertaste is pleasant and lingers on the palate. It leaves a lasting impression of the cheese’s unique blend of flavors.
  • Pairings: Bethmale pairs well with fruity wines such as Béarn or Tursan, and also with dark ales. For food pairings, it goes well with fruits like apples and pears or with a drizzle of honey.

Note: Industrial varieties are relatively milder, while farmstead varieties have a more pronounced taste.

What Pairs Well With Bethmale Cheese?

Food that goes well with Bethmale:

Food CategorySpecific Foods
FruitsApples, Pears, Grapes, Dried Apricots, Dried Figs, Banana, Plum, Orange, Melon
BreadsBaguette, Rye Bread, Artisan Crackers
Spreads & ToppingsHoney, Fig Jam, Quince Paste
CharcuterieProsciutto, Salami, Smoked Ham
NutsAlmonds, Walnuts, Hazelnuts
OthersDark Chocolate, Olives

Also read: 11 Best Crackers that Pair Well with Cheese

Beverage that goes well with Bethmale:

Beverage CategorySpecific Beverages
WineBéarn, Tursan, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Bordeaux, Malbec, Roussillon, Madiran, Collioure and Corbières
BeerDark Ales, Belgian Trappist Beers, Stout
CiderDry Apple Cider, Pear Cider
WhiskeySingle Malt Scotch, Irish Whiskey
Non-AlcoholicSparkling Apple Juice, Herbal Tea

Also read: Best Wine and Cheese Pairings: The Ultimate Guide

The History and Origin of Bethmale Cheese

Bethmale cheese, a gem from the French Pyrénées, holds a history as rich and textured as its flavor. This semi-hard cheese is a product of the Ariège area, specifically the Couserans region in Comté de Foix. The cheese gets its name from Bethmale Valley, where it was originally produced.

The history of Bethmale cheese can be traced back to the 12th century, a fact that lends it an air of royal prestige. It is said that King Louis VI was quite taken with this cheese, bestowing upon it his royal approval. This historical anecdote has left an indelible mark on the cheese’s legacy, adding to its allure and prominence over the centuries.

Bethmale cheese is a testament to the exceptional dairy products of its region. Traditionally made with raw cow’s milk, the cheese stands as a symbol of France’s rich and diverse culinary legacy. The cheese carries the essence of its place of origin, offering a taste that’s deeply intertwined with the lush landscapes and traditional farming practices of the scenic Pyrenees.

Today, Bethmale cheese continues to be celebrated for its unique flavor profile and historical significance. It remains one of the most famous Pyrenean cheeses and a beloved part of France’s gastronomic heritage.

Where to Buy Bethmale:

Fromages – 7 oz for €6.90

More Cheeses from France:

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