Perfect Winter Cheese

Perfect Winter Cheese

Vacherin Mont D’Or

By Gemma Driver

Cheese: Vacherin Mont d’Or.
Bought from: Supermarkets, markets and cheese shops, from November to March
Price: Around €20 a kilo.
Type of Cheese: Unpasteurized, unpressed cow’s cheese.
Ingredients: Cow’s milk, salt.
Age: Matured for at least three weeks.
Region produced in: The mountain region of the Jura, Franche-Comté, where it is called ‘Vacherin Haute-Doubs’ or ‘Le Mont d’Or’.


When ripe, the ring of spruce wood, which keeps the cheese together, infuses a magical forest wonderland of flavour into the salt-washed rind and the runny, ivory interior.

Baked vacherinIt is worth buying a more expensive, prize-winning cheese, because you are more likely to experience perfection.

You can buy either a slice from a large Vacherin – which are about 30cm in diameter – or a whole small one in its wooden box, of around 10 – 20cm across. It is easier to check on ripeness from the large ones, because you can see how much it is running, and even ask for a taste. With the little whole cheeses, I would advise you to keep it for a while, to ensure ripeness. Tip: buy it when it’s on special offer, and keep in a cool place unopened for a month after its sell-by date. If you cut into the cheese before it is ripe, it will dry out before it can mature.

Vacherin is so runny, that it is traditionally served with a spoon! Utterly wonderful for any occasion; for a rustic lunch with crusty bread, or served as the cheese course at dinner parties.

La boîte chaude (serves 4):

For winter comfort a traditional main course is the baked Mont d’Or. Buy a small cheese (whether it is ripe or not), and place the wooden box lid underneath the cheese. Dig a small well in the center and fill with half a glass of white wine. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve it straight from the oven. Arrange on a platter 10-12 small boiled potatoes, your favorite ham or charcuterie (usually jambon cru de Haut-Doubs or saucisse de Morteau) and place the piping hot Mont d’Or in the center. Each guest spoons out and drizzles the cheese over the charcuterie and potatoes. Accompany with a green salad and An informal feast for a cozy winter dinner with friends.

Did you know?

The title ‘Vacherin Hauts-Doubs’ AOC is protected by French law and AOP throughout Europe. Vacherin is made from the milk of mountain cows, which are fed exclusively on their winter diet of hay. Mont d’Or can be traced to the middle ages when it was first made by mountain dairy farmers under the auspices of the great abbeys. When they could not get to the Emmental and Gruyere-producing co-ops with their milk, due to the climate conditions in this mountain area in winter, they developed their own cheese which has become now sought after in its own right.

Photo under creative commons license by Yasuo Kida via flickr

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Gemma is a food writer, who lived in France for eight years, and now divides her time between her cottage in the rural Dordogne and her home in the UK.

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