Vacherin Mont d’Or, often referred to as the ‘Holy Grail’ of soft cheeses, is a unique culinary delight that originates from the border regions of France and Switzerland. Made from cow’s milk, this cheese stands as an emblem of traditional dairy craftsmanship, with its production process being passed down through generations. This cheese is so distinctive that even its packaging is considered part of the cheese itself.
This cheese is not just a treat to the palate but also a part of cultural history. It was a favorite of King Louis XV and continues to be loved by many today. The Vacherin Mont-d’Or AOP variant is a handcrafted speciality from the Vaud town of Jura, showcasing the region’s commitment to quality and tradition.
Quick Facts About Vacherin Mont d’Or
|Origin||Originates from the Jura mountains on the border of France and Switzerland.|
|Type||It’s a soft, rich, and creamy cheese.|
|Milk||Traditionally made from the raw milk of Montbeliard cows.|
|Taste||Mildly fruity, with a unique resinous note due to its spruce bark casing.|
|Texture||Exceptionally creamy, often spoonable at room temperature.|
|Aroma||It has a strong, pungent aroma that is reminiscent of the earthy, woody surroundings where the cheese is matured.|
|Rind||The rind is washed and wrapped in a strip of spruce bark.|
|Season||It’s a seasonal cheese, typically produced between August 15 and March 15, and best enjoyed between September and April.|
|Pairing||Pairs well with full-bodied white wines, sparkling wines, or light red wines. Also goes well with potatoes, bread, and charcuterie.|
|Storage||Store in a cool place, preferably the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. It should be kept in its original packaging to maintain humidity and prevent it from drying out.|
|Serving||To fully enjoy its creaminess, serve Vacherin Mont d’Or at room temperature. You can even heat it in the oven for a fondue-like treat.|
What is Vacherin Mont d’Or?
Vacherin Mont d’Or, often simply referred to as Vacherin, is a unique culinary gem that hails from the border region of France and Switzerland. This distinctive cheese, made from cow’s milk, exists in two main types – French or Swiss, each carrying its own unique characteristics and flavors.
This exquisite cheese has a rich history rooted in the town of Jura in the Vaud region of Switzerland. It’s here that Vacherin Mont-d’Or AOP, a soft cheese specialty, is lovingly produced by hand in the Vallée de Joux. What sets Vacherin Mont-d’Or apart is that it’s the only Swiss cheese where the packaging is considered part of the cheese itself, even factoring into the total weight.
Upon first glance, this cheese captivates with its moist surface, golden and slightly reddish rind. The pate is a soft yellow and creamy, beckoning to be savored. It’s no wonder that this cheese is often referred to as “the holy grail of raw milk cheeses”. Its indulgent, fondue-like consistency has earned it the title of the “Holy Grail of soft cheese,” making it a cheese to be relished all winter long.
Historically, Vacherin Mont d’Or was a favorite of King Louis XV of France. Unique among French cheeses, it is traditionally eaten with a spoon due to its exceptionally creamy texture. The cheese is produced only between August 15 and March 15, symbolizing the transition from summer to winter.
Hailing from Switzerland, Vacherin Mont d’Or is a gooey, woodsy delight that’s produced from winter cow’s milk, offering a taste that’s both intense and powerful. Its buttery and silky texture, coupled with its unique woodsy flavor, make Vacherin Mont d’Or a true testament to the art of cheesemaking.
What Does Mont d’Or Taste Like?
Mont d’Or offers a unique and unforgettable taste experience. The flavor profile of this cheese is complex and multi-layered, making it a favorite among cheese enthusiasts.
In its raw form, Mont d’Or has a creamy and salty taste, with a hint of nuttiness. It’s slightly salty and milky, offering a soft and silky mouthfeel. The flavor is full, rich, sweet, and grassy, delivering a satisfying and balanced taste.
The scent of the spruce packaging permeates the cheese, giving it a distinct and pleasant aroma, somewhat like maturing wine and spirits in oak barrels. Its rind, while not edible, contributes to the overall flavor and aroma of the cheese. Once removed, you’re greeted with a creamy, runny, almost liquid inside, especially when fully ripe.
When baked, Mont d’Or transforms into a flavor explosion. Baking enhances its earthy taste and brings out even more flavors. The baked cheese offers a mix of fat, funk, fresh cream, wood, garlic, and a peculiar buttery sharpness.
However, it should be noted that the smell of Mont d’Or can be quite strong and may not appeal to everyone. Some describe it as a stinker that smells ripe, but this does not reflect its actual taste.
Vacherin Mont d’Or Tasting Notes
- Texture: Vacherin Mont d’Or boasts a creamy, spoonable texture that becomes even more gooey and unctuous as it ripens. Its texture is one of its defining features, often compared to the consistency of a rich, melted brie.
- Flavor: The flavor profile of this cheese is complex and layered. It is mildly fruity with a unique resinous note due to its spruce bark casing. The taste is earthy and robust, reminiscent of the mountainous regions where the cheese is made. There’s also a touch of tanginess, and hints of nuttiness as well.
- Aroma: Vacherin Mont d’Or has a powerful aroma that can be described as woodsy and pungent. You might detect notes of fresh cream, mushrooms, and a distinct smell of spruce bark, which comes from the strip of spruce bark that encases the cheese.
- Pairings: This cheese pairs well with a variety of foods and beverages. For wines, consider pairing it with full-bodied white wines, sparkling wines, or light red wines. When it comes to food, it goes well with crusty bread, potatoes, and charcuterie.
- Serving Suggestions: To fully enjoy its creaminess, serve Vacherin Mont d’Or at room temperature. You can also heat it in the oven for a fondue-like treat. This cheese is traditionally eaten by creating a small hole in the top and scooping out the creamy cheese with a spoon.
- Seasonality: Vacherin Mont d’Or is a seasonal cheese, typically produced between August 15 and March 15, and best enjoyed between September and April. This is due to the seasonal availability of raw milk from the Montbeliard cows.
What is the Difference Between France and Switzerland Mont d’Or?
Vacherin Mont d’Or is a highly prized cheese produced on both sides of the French-Swiss border, in the Jura mountains region. Despite sharing a name and some similarities, there are distinct differences between the French and Swiss versions.
|Aspect||French Mont d’Or (Vacherin du Haut-Doubs)||Swiss Mont d’Or (Vacherin Mont d’Or)|
|Milk Type||Raw or made with thermized cow’s milk. Thermalization is a process that heats the milk to a temperature lower than pasteurization, killing some but not all bacteria.||Made with raw cow’s milk.|
|Appellation||It holds the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) label.||It has an AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) designation.|
|Name||In France, the cheese is known as Vacherin du Haut Doubs.||In Switzerland, the cheese is known as Vacherin Mont-d’Or.|
- Appellation: The most significant difference lies in their appellations. The Swiss version has an AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) designation, meaning it’s protected and must adhere to strict production regulations. On the other hand, the French version holds the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) label, with its own set of rules.
- Milk: Both versions are made from cow’s milk, but the Swiss version is traditionally made from raw milk, while the French version can be made from either raw or thermized (slightly heated but not pasteurized) milk.
- Size: Swiss Vacherin comes in two sizes – 450g (small) and 800g (large), while the French version typically comes in three sizes: petit (at least 480g), moyen (at least 1.3kg), and grand (at least 3kg).
- Taste: While both versions share a creamy, buttery taste and a soft, supple texture, the flavor can vary. The French version tends to have a stronger, more pungent flavor, while the Swiss version is often described as milder and more delicate.
- Production Season: Both cheeses are seasonal. However, the Swiss Mont d’Or season starts slightly earlier, from 15th August to 31st March, while the French Mont d’Or season runs from 10th September to 10th May.
Note: the taste and characteristics of both French and Swiss Mont d’Or can vary based on factors such as the specific ingredients used, the aging process, and the techniques employed by the cheesemaker.
How to Eat Vacherin Mont d’Or?
Vacherin Mont d’Or is a versatile cheese that can be enjoyed in various ways:
- Straight from the Box: If the Vacherin Mont d’Or is ripe enough, it can be eaten straight out of the box. You can dip fresh baguette slices into the cheese and scoop it up, or slather it on with a spoon.
- Pairing: Pair the cheese with a flavorful white wine such as Arbois, Chasselas, Sancerre, Chardonnay, or Gewürztraminer. It also pairs well with Champagne or beer.
- On Bread or Crackers: Spoon the cheese liberally onto whole wheat bread, crackers, apple and pear slices, and even berries.
- Baked: Baking the cheese is another popular way to enjoy it. Take a thin slice off the top of the cheese, put it back on, and return the cheese to the box. Pierce the top of the cheese a few times with a fine skewer and bake it. Another method involves wrapping the cheese box in two layers of aluminum foil and placing it on a baking tray. After baking, you can dip pieces of bread or boiled potatoes into the gooey cheese.
Where to Buy Mont d’Or?
7 Best Mont d’Or Substitutes
|Rush Creek Reserve||This American cheese is often compared to Vacherin Mont d’Or due to its similar soft, creamy texture and rich, savory flavor. Like Mont d’Or, it’s also wrapped in spruce bark, which adds a distinctive woody note.|
|Harbison||Another American cheese wrapped in spruce bark, Harbison shares the creamy, spreadable texture of Mont d’Or. Its flavor profile is woodsy and sweet with notes of mustard, making it a good substitute for Mont d’Or.|
|Epoisses||Epoisses is a French cheese known for its soft, creamy texture and strong, pungent aroma, much like Mont d’Or. It also has a similar washed-rind process, resulting in a complex flavor profile.|
|Camembert||Camembert is another creamy, soft-ripened cheese that can serve as a substitute for Mont d’Or. It’s milder in flavor but still offers a nice buttery and creamy taste.|
|Reblochon||Reblochon is a French cheese with a nutty taste and a soft, creamy texture, similar to Mont d’Or. It’s also a washed-rind cheese, adding a similar depth of flavor.|
|Brie||Brie is a well-known, widely available cheese with a smooth, creamy texture that mirrors Mont d’Or. While its flavor is milder, it can still serve as a substitute in many recipes.|
|Taleggio||Taleggio is an Italian soft cheese with a strong aroma and a fruity tang, similar to Mont d’Or. Its creamy texture makes it a good substitute for melting or spreading.|
What Pairs Well With Mont d’Or?
Food that goes well with Mont d’Or:
|Bread||Baguettes, sourdough, whole wheat bread, country-style bread, rye bread, toasted bread, crackers|
|Fruits and Vegetables||Apples, pears, grapes, figs, radishes, boiled or roasted potatoes, cherry tomatoes|
|Meats||Charcuterie (ham, salami, prosciutto), roast beef, smoked turkey, grilled sausages|
|Seafood||Smoked salmon, prawns, lobster, oysters|
|Nuts and Seeds||Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds|
|Condiments and Spreads||Honey, fig jam, quince paste, mustard, chutney|
|Sweets and Desserts||Dark chocolate, fruit tarts, cookies, cheesecake|
|Others||Olives, pickles, gherkins, truffle oil|
Also read: What Fruit Goes on a Charcuterie Board?
Beverage that goes well with Mont d’Or:
|Red Wine||Pinot Noir, Red Fronsac, Red Graves, Red Mercurey, Red Pernand – Vergelesses, Chinon, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, Morgon|
|White Wine||Vin Jaune, Arbois, Chasselas, Sancerre, Chardonnay, Gewürtztraminer|
|Sparkling Wine||Champagne, Crémant de Bourgogne|
|Beer||Full-bodied beers, craft beers|
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does Mont d’Or mean?
Mont d’Or, a term of French origin, translates to “Golden Mountain” in English. In the context of Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese, it refers to the mountainous region where this delicious cheese originates, which is on the border between France and Switzerland. The name is a nod to the lush, golden pastures where the cows graze, providing the milk used in the cheese’s production. The cheese itself also takes on a golden hue as it matures, further adding to the significance of its name.
2. How to pronounce Mont d’Or?
The French term “Mont d’Or” is pronounced as “Mon Dor”. Here’s a phonetic breakdown:
- “Mont” sounds like the English word “mon” with a silent ‘t’.
- “d’Or” sounds like the English word “door”.
So, put together, “Mont d’Or” is pronounced as “Mon Door”. Please remember that French pronunciation can vary depending on accents and regions.
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