Fourme
d'Ambert

Fourme d'Ambert (foorm dom-BEHR) is a cow’s milk blue cheese, with a distinctive narrow cylindrical shape. It is one of the mildest blue cheeses- it’s very creamy, with a delicate fruity flavor and mushroom overtones. It has an earthy scent, a natural bloomy rind, and a bone white interior paste with blue veins. A popular blue in France, and one of its oldest cheeses, it dates back as far as Roman times. Today it is still made in the Auvergne region, while respecting the centuries old tradition. It is excellent as an afternoon treat, on the after dinner cheese board, in soufflés, and in salads along with crusty bread. Serve with a medium-bodied red wine from the Cotes du Rhone, or with a white, like Sauternes or Vouvray. It has a rough gray-brown rind and the cheese is firm, has an ivory color with greenish-blue veining. It has an interesting aroma of roasted nuts and a fruity flavor.

PROFILE

Fourme d'Ambert is a gourmet blue cheese with light blue veining, made with pasteurized cow's milk. It’s produced near the rugged mountains of the Puy-de-Dôme region in France. There, summers are hot and the winters long and cold. Rich and varied vegetation covers the land. The milk, collected at altitudes of 5,000 feet, gives the cheese its uniquely earthy flavor. Fourme d’Ambert Cantorel is made in Saint-Flour in the Cantal. 6.5 gallon of milk is required to make one cylinder.

HISTORY

Fourme d'Ambert: the name derives from "fourme", the old French word for cheese, from the Latin name "forma", (referring to its shape). It was sold primarily at the market in the village of Ambert, thus giving it also its name. According to the Fourme d'Ambert legend, the Arverne tribe was already eating Fourme d'Ambert at the time of the Battle of Gergovia in 52 BC. Apparently, the Gallic Druids were very enthusiastic about this cheese! On the Chaulme commune stands a 9th century chapel. Over its entrance, you can still see seven carved tithe stones representing butter, sausage, ham, eggs, hay, grains and fourme cheese. The serfs had to provide these foods every year in order to fulfill their tithe obligations.

CRAFTING THEN AND NOW

The cheese was once exclusively produced on farms. During the summer months (June to October), women and children went up to the jasseries (rustic structures that served as stables, cheese houses and shelters) while the men stayed down in the fields to take care of the hay. Production was strictly the domain of the farmers; fourme cheese was made from the daily milking. Once the cheese had ripened, it was sold in the local markets of Ambert and Montbrison. These structures reached their apogee during the 19th century, but they were soon replaced by cheese dairies during the first years of the 20th century. The dairies were quite small at first, but they rapidly adopted improved production techniques, which assured a production that increased 35 fold in one hundred years. For many years, the country folk sold their cheese at the market in the town of Ambert, in the heart of Livradois-Forez. Although this was the most popular location for sales, Fourme d'Ambert grew in popularity and is now one of the most well-known and frequently eaten cheeses in all of France. Strong connections were formed between the town of Ambert and the famous cheese. While Fourme d'Ambert is closely linked to the town where it was first developed and bears its name, Ambert pays homage to the cheese as well. The town features this unique cheese in a museum and celebrates it with many events such as the Fourmofolies, the local Ambert fair.

CHEESE MAKING

Fourme dAmbert is made in six stages. The vat process, the first step in the production of Fourme d’Ambert, is a critical time when the quality of the cheese is first determined. Before transferring the milk to the vat, cultures containing lactic acid bacteria are added to the milk during the maturation phase. During the ripening stage, the cultures contribute to the development of the cheese’s texture and aromas. The milk is then transferred to the vat and heated to 88.5°F. At this point, the cheese makers add Penicillium roqueforti bacteria to grow blue mould and rennet to make the cheese curdle. The curdled milk is cut into small cubes and then shaken for over an hour to help separate the cheese grains from the whey. During the curd stirring, a thin protective shell or "membrane" forms around the tender heart of the grain. During the moulding phase, small pockets form between the grains because the strength of the membrane keeps the grains from adhering to each other. The filled moulds are placed in a warmer room and are turned several times over a period of 24 hours to help drain the cheese. The cheeses thus take their distinctive shape and weigh almost 5 pounds apiece. Once drained, the cheeses are either salted by hand with fine salt or immersed in a concentrated salt solution for several hours (brining). Then they are put into a well-ventilated room to dry for two days. The blue mould needs space and oxygen to develop, so the cheeses are pricked with large needles, thus the blue will have the air it needs to spread through the little pockets into the center of the cheese while it ripens in the cave. Fourme d’Ambert is aged for a minimum of 28 days to become creamy and to acquire all its aromas. The downy white fur that grows on its surface is regularly smoothed down so that the rind forms slowly. After a few days, the blue mould begins to appear and the cheese paste begins to ripen.

Fourme d'Ambert and PDO

Les Fromageries Occitanes "While respecting our traditions, we are fervently developing the production of authentic cheeses in our 3 lands: Auvergne – Roquefort – Pyrenees." Originally from a large cooperative history of the south-west of France, Les Fromageries Occitanes (Occitan Cheese Dairies ) are rooted in their lands, developing a complete range of products adapted to the trends of modern consumption. Proud of developing this regional heritage, they are taking part on a long-term basis in the economic network of this great French region. Les Fromageries Occitanes received many awards over the years recognizing the authenticity and outstanding quality of their cheese. On May 9, 1972, Fourme d'Ambert was added to the select list of AOC (Protected Designation of Origin) cheeses.

RECIPES


Comments (3)Add Comment
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written by Dan, January 08, 2014
I agree.. I am in Fl. Where can I buy it?
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written by Anja, March 28, 2012
The cheese looks divine. I would love to try it.
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written by Eva, January 18, 2012
I recently had this cheese in the home of a friend of mine in NYC during their birthday celebration. I have to say, I've had a myriad of cheeses from many places around the world. This has now become one of my favorite cheeses of all times. That having been said, I like an array of cheeses (including very strong blues). However, this is the most distinct and the mildest blue cheese I have ever tasted. I highly recommend trying it!

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