This week’s French fromage feature is on Morbier. It was definitely love at first bite with this one. The first time I tasted Morbier, we were at a friend’s house for a small get together shortly after I arrived in Burgundy. The hostess asked me which cheese I had yet to try from a handful of options she had on hand. I pointed to the cream-colored cheese with a grey line running through it. Since that first creamy, savory bite, I was hooked. This cheese has made a regular appearance in my kitchen from then on.
Morbier AOP is a raw cow’s milk cheese specifically from two types of cows, Montbéliarde and Simmental. These are happy cows with regulations stipulating one hectare per dairy cow for grazing. This is an uncooked, pressed cheese requiring a minimum aging period of forty-five days. Morbier has a pale orange rind encompassing a dense, but melt-in-your-mouth creamy paste. Plus, a dark grey line running through the center of the cheese Morbier’s trademark.
This cheese originated in the Jura-Massif. Around two centuries ago, in the secluded farms of Franche-Comté, Morbier obtained its signature mark. After the cows were milked in the morning, the farmers made a curd, pressed it into a mold, and covered it with a layer of wood ash to protect the forming cheese. Then, they added curds from the next milking the following day to finish the cheese. Today, this grey stripe, once created by ash, is added with vegetable charcoal.
A wheel of Morbier cheese measures 35 cm in diameter and is 5-8cm thick, as controlled under the AOP established in 2000. Furthermore, 11,000 tons of Morbier are produced each year. This cheese has a mild yet complex taste which is completely irresistible. It has a wonderfully tangy, nutty, and fruity flavor with a lingering taste of hay and nuts.
Though rare, Vin Jaune from Jura makes a great match for Morbier. This wine is made from Savagnin grapes and gets its unique flavors while aging in barrel under a layer, or voile, of yeast. Vin Jaune has complex flavors of citrus, nuts, pine resin, and anise, all of which nicely complement the nutty, fruity flavors of Morbier. Other fantastic pairings for Morbier include Pinot Noir, Gamay, Viognier, and Roussanne.