Cheese University (XXIV): Abondance


Abondance

In the year of the Lord 1381, when the conclave was sitting in Avignon to elect a new pope, the clerics ordered 15 lumps of this cheese, made high up in the Savoy mountains. It was already famous back then, imagine, a dairy product from the alps with a history of more than 300 years – which means that we today talk about a cheese with origins dating back over a thousand years. Louis XIV, the splendid “sun king” was a fan, too, and so are we today. It’s a subtle, fine cheese called

Abondance

Its production is a sophisticated procedure of renneting and coagulation, of scalding and pressing and salting. It takes 100 litres of full-fat cow’s milk to make one Abondance cheese of roughly 10 kilograms. So, if you want to do your children a favour, feed them Abondance: it is (like all mountain cheese) a concentrated  shot of minerals, of calcium, good for the build-up of young bones (and good for culinary education, of course).

Abondance is, in France, a quite popular cheese, more than 1400 tons are produced every year, 54 farmhouse-producers stand in. It’s a cheese with changing faces: the pieces produced during summer and on the alps are to be preferred. They make you dream of grass-fed cows roaming freely, grazing herbs and getting a hug every now and then from the farmer. You might think I’m kidding but I’ve seen cheese production high up in the French mountains and, believe me, these guys even call their cows by their names.

Only the Abondance, the Montbéliard and Tarine breeds are entitled to deliver their milk. The AOC charter from 1990 contains many rules and secures that every single piece of this cheese is an original with an ID of its own. It’s hard to describe Abondance’s taste because of the immense variety. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a nutty, flavourful cheese, a rustic witness of the colourful life in the mountains; if you pick the wrong one, it can be without interest and even bland. It is a cheese often used for Raclette but I’d consider it too distinguished to be used for that purpose. Abondance really means abundance, by the way.

People in the region drink their regional wines from Savoy, I’ve said earlier that I consider them to be substandard. A red Beaujolais could do the trick or other wine that’s more on the light side. In dubio pro white wine.

The video features a flock of Montbéliarde, don’t know where, don’t know who and how. But it’s a nice clip.

4 comments

  1. Thank you, Ingo. Abondance should get more attention, I agree. All American cheese varieties I had so far are clearly substandard (compared to the French fare). And, in fact, I only really know the latter. So I’ll stick to the beloved “fromages de France”.

  2. How come I don’t know even the name of this cheese??? I live door to door with Savoy region! (And thousand years old!). I am really ashamed…

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