Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fourme de Montbrison

Fourme de Montbrison is one of the 40-50 French cheeses protected under the AOC/AOP system. It’s a blue cheese made in the French department of the Loire near the very picturesque town of Montbrison.

The cheese has a beautiful orange punctured rind that smells sweet, faintly fermented, and slightly musty and woody – this comes from aging the cheeses on curved spruce boards. The centre of the cheese is a rich ivory, turning almost golden, laced with delicate lines of blue, deriving from the ubiquitous Penicillium roqueforti.
The name “fourme” apparently derives from the Greek “formos” which represented the recipient in which curds were shaped into cheeses. From this route came the old French “fourmage” which over time evolved into the word fromage, meaning cheese in modern French. The term “fourme” is now applied to French cheeses of a rather specific cylindrical shape including Fourme d’Ambert made just across the border into the Auvergne.

In flavour the cheese is surprisingly mild, quite milky with a faint woodiness. There’s definitely an element from the blue mould but it’s mild, lacking the spicy piquancy of some other classic blues such as Roquefort and Stilton. I’m going to be honest here, I’m not a huge fan of the cheese at room temperature. Shocking I know. 

Where it comes into its own though, is when it’s heated. The crumbly pâte melts in a way reminiscent of cheddar and bubbles and browns pleasantly under the grill. The cheese also melts well into piping hot pasta, aided with a dash of cream and some seasoning.

The recipe (if you can even really call it that) below was demonstrated to me by the last existing farm house producer of Fourme de Montbrison when I spent a day there helping to make the cheese. If there’s a recipe using the cheese, they know it!

Grilled Fourme de Montbrison on toast

This makes a fantastically easy starter or finger snack to serve with an apéro.

1.  Lightly toast a slice of bread
2.  Place a slice of cheese on the toast
3.  Cook under the grill until the cheese bubbles and starts to brown
For more information, you can check the official website (in French).

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