Served traditionally in small crocks, Saint-Marcellin is another soft ripened historic cheese of France, coming from Isere, (formerly known as Dauphiné region). Named after the small town of Saint Marcellin, it's a cow's milk cheese with a soft, silky texture, runny interior, and mild to strong flavors. Deliciously creamy and with a fresh milky aftertaste, it can be enjoyed at any time of the day - as a quick lunch, as a starter, or on the cheeseboard. It is also excellent warmed in the oven and served with a fresh baguette. A great match with most big reds, it is found at every gastronome's table.
A soft-ripened cheese of pasteurized cow's milk with a rindless golden crust and white mold, Saint Marcellin is mild, a little acidic, and slightly salty. Characteristically, the soft beige interior is pungent and buttery. It has an intensely creamy texture, with a complex nutty, fruity flavor that becomes more robust as it matures. It has been described for centuries as "a cheese to worship"! As with most soft ripened cheeses, Saint Marcellin pairs well with red wines, such as Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape, or a spicy Syrah.
According to regional legend, the future King Louis XI, then still a young man, was out hunting one day in 1445 when he got lost and encountered a giant bear. He shouted for help, and two woodcutters came to his rescue, taking him to their cabin and feeding him bread and the local cheese. St Marcellin was on Louis's table in the Louvre by 1461, warranted by the king, and for 500 years now it has been known as a "king" among cheeses. The cheese is named after the place of its origin - St Marcellin, a quiet little village in the valley of the River Isere, which runs from the Alps down to the Rhone. It is about 65 miles south of Lyon, a place that you can easily visit on a trip to the South of France.
Just like children, St Marcellin requires an attentive "upbringing" from the affineur. When they are fresh, the three-ounce cheeses are tasty enough, but aging in either wet or dry cellars, or a combination of both, produces a supple exterior crust, and a runny, magnificently full-flavored interior. At its best, St Marcellin has a mild smell and a taste that builds up to bite at the end. "It stings the tongue", as they say, and the cheese maker knows precisely when to send it to market. Aged about one month, St Marcellin is packaged in a distinctive individual tray to preserve its creamy texture. It is generally small in size, weighing about 3 - 4 oz (50% fat), with a mottled creamy-white exterior.