Tomorrow marks National Cheese Lovers’ Day in the USA, an occasion so worth celebrating that, even though we’re not American, we just had to jump on the bandwagon! After all, Normandy is renowned around the world for being a cheese-producing region, thanks to the abundance of rich milk produced by its many lovely Norman cows.
If you are a fan of soft cheeses, Normandy really is the region for you, boasting four world-famous AOC (quality-certified) cheeses – Camembert de Normandie, Livarot, Neufchâtel and Pont-l’Evêque – which are best enjoyed with fresh crusty bread and washed down with a glass of local cider or Calvados.
All you need to know about the four Norman cheeses:
Camembert de Normandie
Round in form, Camembert de Normandie is a soft cheese with a floury rind left to ripen for 35 days. The cheese was perfected in 1791 by Marie Harel, a lady farmer from the village of Camembert, following the advice of the priest Abbott Bonvoust, who hailed from the town of Brie and had been staying with her. Camembert de Normandie was given to French troops during World War I, making this cheese firmly entrenched in French popular cuisine culture as a result. Over 50 million AOC Camembert de Normandie rounds are produced a year!
One of the oldest and greatest Normandy cheeses, Livarot is a monastic French cheese originating in the village of Livarot. This cheese is called ‘The Colonel’ because of the five strips of raffia that are wrapped around each cheese, similar to the stripes worn on French colonels’ uniforms. With its distinctive orange rind and its pungent aroma, Livarot requires up to two months of ripening in warm, humid cellars in order to obtain its delicious and unmistakable flavour.
The oldest of the Normandy cheeses, Neufchâtel is almost a thousand years old with traces of its existence dating back as far as 1035. Produced within a 30km radius of Neufchâtel-en-Bray in the Seine-Maritime département, Neufchâtel is ready to eat ten days after being made. It is a lightly salted, cream and smooth cheese with a white, floury rind and is often heart-shaped. Legend has it that during the Hundred Years’ War, young girls offered Neufchâtel cheese to English soldiers as a token of their love!
Originally produced in the monasteries of the Pays d’Auge, the first mention of Pont-l’Évêque dates back to the thirteenth century, when manuscripts of the time mention ‘Angelot’, the cheese from which Pont-l’Évêque evolved. In 1263 AD, Guillaume de Lorris proclaimed in his book Roman de la Rose that ‘a good table wine always finishes with a dessert of Angelot’. Left to ripen for six weeks, the square-shaped Pont-l’Évêque cheese has a soft ochre or golden-yellow rind and a smooth, creamy texture.
And there you have it – the four Norman cheeses! Why not treat yourself to some this weekend? While Livarot can be found in specialist cheese shops across the UK, Camembert de Normandie, Neufchâtel and Pont-l’Évêque are widely available in UK supermarkets, so go pick some up later and let us know which one’s your favourite – bon appétit !
For more information on food and drink in Normandy, visit the Normandy Tourist Board website.
Cover photo © J.P.C. / PROD Fotolia.com | Text: Fran Lambert