On the eve of a journalist friend’s birthday, for which she will be holding a cheese and wine night, I have decided to dedicate this week’s blog post to her favourite Normandy cheese, and one I hope will make an appearance tomorrow: lovely Liverot.
Named after the village from which it originated, Livarot cheese is over 100 years old. And although Livarot is situated in the Calvados département, it was a farmer from the Orne département called Eugène Graindorge who produced the first Livarot cheese in 1910. The story goes that he started to develop his business by collecting milk and cheese from his neighbours and maturing them in the village of Livarot. Later, his son Bernard helped expand the Graindorge dairy between 1940 and 1980, to the point where Livarot cheese started to appear on the menu in Parisian restaurants. Nowadays, Eugène’s grandson Thierry runs the Graindorge Dairy, which still makes the delicious cheese that has been granted Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) status.
Now, you probably already know that French people love and respect their cheeses. But did you know that Livarot is nicknamed ‘The Colonel’? This nickname comes from the initial way in which this type of cheese was made. If you have ever eaten Livarot before, you may have noticed the ridges on the sides of this orange cheese. These are prints made by the sedge leaves (usually three or five) used to hold the cheese together and maintain its shape during the maturing process. As these markings look like the stripes on a military uniform, Livarot cheese was dubbed ‘The Colonel’, and the name has stuck.
If you want to enjoy a good AOC Livarot cheese, I heartily recommend that you go to the Livarot Cheese Fair, which takes place at the beginning of August. Last year, I was lucky enough to go and thoroughly enjoyed walking through the picturesque village streets, enjoying the aromas of cheese, cider and grilled meat! It would have been rude of course to refuse free samples from all the local producers who offered me them, especially when those samples were Normandy cheese…
The Livarot Cheese Fair typically starts with everyone having a drink together, followed by cookery lessons using Normandy cheeses, not to mention a parade complete with brass band. There is also the famous Livarot eating contest on the Sunday morning (my favourite part). The goal is to eat a 750g Livarot cheese as quickly as possible. The record, set in 2012, is 1 minute and 51 seconds. Easy, right?
So to my journalist friend, a very joyeuse anniversaire to you, and here’s one of my favourite easy cheesey Livarot recipes for us to try tomorrow!
Egg cocotte with Livarot and pumpkin
- 100g Livarot cheese
- 4 eggs
- 20cl single cream
- 100g diced pumpkin
- 1 packet of lardons
- butter (for greasing)
- salt and pepper
- Dice the pumpkin and boil in 20cl salted water
- Once cooked, drain half of the liquid and mix the diced pumpkin and the single cream into the remaining liquid
- Preheat oven to 150°C
- Fry up the lardons
- Grease four ramekin dishes (or similar) with butter
- Pour the pumpkin and cream mixture into the ramekins
- Add the fried lardons and nutmeg, and season to taste with salt and pepper (bearing in mind that the lardons are salty)
- Break an egg into each ramekin and add the diced Livarot (no rind)
- Place the four ramekin dishes in a shallow pan of warm water (bain-marie) and cook in the oven for 8-10 minutes
The E. Graindorge Dairy is open Monday to Saturday January to October (for opening hours, visit the E. Graindorge website) and runs tours and tastings for €3.30 per person.
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourism website.
Cover photo: © E. Graindorge Dairy | Text: Fran Lambert