At this time of the year when it is chilly, I am less inclined to think of green meadows with cows grazing on them much less cows being milked to make cheese – the Vacherin Mont d’Or is an exception.
In early 2009, when I was doing some spadework on where to go and what to do in Switzerland where I was going to meet my wife-to-be on a short vacation, I came across the Vacherin Mont d’Or. In French, la vache refers to the cow, and mont d’or to the mountain of gold, which could just as well be referring to the slightly golden hue of the cheese that oozes out from its soft rind, or to the golden slopes of the Jura mountains on the French-Swiss border from where the cheese originates. Unfortunately, for me, in September of 2009, I was a tad bit too early in the season to taste the cheese. So, recently, when I found myself in Paris in October, listening to a friend longingly describe how in her family they allow a small wheel of the Vacherin Mont d’Or spread over a plate of steaming hot potatoes, I rushed to the nearest fromagerie (cheese shop), bought myself a big wedge of the cheese, practiced some French, and elicited a broad smile in trying to find out any differences between the French and Swiss versions (the cheese shares an interesting history between France and Switzerland). Since I didn’t have access to a kitchen, I bought a baguette instead, and walked back through the streets of Paris feeling like I was doing what I should be doing.
Fast forward many weeks, my wife and I were strolling through the Whole Foods store near home when I saw a velvety textured, off-white colored cheese completely spread out from its rind – apparently, a thermalized version of the Vacherin Mont d’Or from Switzerland, called the Petit Vaccarinus, is now available in the USA.
The unpasteurized French version and the thermalized Swiss version taste different. Nevertheless, a lunch of boiled, fingerling potatoes covered with the Mont d’Or, makes me think of the difference in flavor between cheese made from milk that is obtained from cows that munch on hay during the cold months, versus those that graze on grass during the warmer time of the year.