Morbier Cheese — Worth a Try!

June 13, 2011

Morbier cheese— (“more-bee-AY”) — is a French cheese that is made from cow’s milk and is semi-soft. It has a distinctive appearance because it has two layers, separated by a layer that looks like a band of mold running through the middle of it.

The band was originally made from ash or charcoal — back in the day, Morbier was made on farms on the lower slopes of the Jura region during the winter months.

Today, the black layer is typically a harmless vegetable product and purely decorative.

Morbier was originally produced in small batches as a farmer’s cheese, generally made for personal consumption and as a way to achieve household economy.

Morbier is traditionally made in flattish cylinders with a grayish-brown rind that is somewhat sticky and bulging ivory paste. They have a ‘meadowsweet aroma of nuts and hay’.

The earliest versions of the cheese were made with leftover cheese curd, or leftover milk, but normally there wasn’t enough milk to fill a full round. In order to keep the first layer from forming a crust, morning milk in the round would be sprinkled with edible ash. The second layer would be added in the evening after the evening milking had taken place.

The name for Morbier cheese comes from the village to which its invention is credited: Morbier in the eastern French province of Franche-Comté.

Today, Morbier A.O.C. is a ‘lait cru’, raw milk cheese. It has a soft paste that has a distinct aroma and with a flavor that only lingers on your taste buds for a short while.

In color, Morbier cheese is a white to pale yellow, and it typically ages for only a short period of time, from about a month and a half to three months. Some will say that the cheese has an unpleasant smell, but true cheese connoisseurs tend not to mind strong smelling cheeses.

The flavor of the cheese may have a slightly bitter aftertaste, yet many praise Morbier cheese for its creamy texture.

Fast facts:
– The rind of Morbier cheese is natural and rubbed, and the paste is supple and sweet.
•- The shape is round, with building sides and horizontal black furrow through the middle.
– Appropriate wines: Muscat; Jura’s wines (primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; and some red (light) Burgundy wines.
– Percentage of Fat: 45%
– 2 week shelf life in the refrigerator.

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