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Alsace

Regional Cheese

Munster or Munster Géromé

Of course, the most typical cheese of Alsace is Munster or Géromé. This is one of the three oldest cheeses of France. It is made on both sides of the Vosges Mountains. Alsatians call it Munster from the word Monastère, or monastery. Lorrainers call it Géromé, a deformation of the name of the city Gerardmer which in the fifteenth century became a very important market for cheese and was the source of its manufacture in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Géromé then weighed up to three pounds and came in a pine box. Since 1978, Munster has its own AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controlée).

Legends abound about the origins of this cheese. One has it that Munster dates back to the 9th century,the days of Charlemagne, when the monks came to Christianize the area, bringing their expertise in the manufacture of cheese. The recipe was left to an abbey founded by Irish monks in Munster in the Valley of St. Gregory (Münster im Gregoriental). Another says it was invented in the 7th century by the monks of the Benedictine Abbey of Munster Monastère as a way to preserve milk. Whichever is correct, peasants of the area paid part of their taxes to either, the Dukes of Lorraine or the convent in the area. Today, it is produced in seven departments in the Valley of Munster via traditional methods specified by prescribed standards and has had its AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée) since 1969. 8,120 tons were produced in 2007 of which 14% were from raw milk and 9% were classed as fermier. There are approximately 100 producers of Munster fermier and seven cooperatives and private industrial producers.

Munster is a cow's milk cheese; with a soft interior and a washed rind. Usually it is 13 to 19 cm in diameter, 2.4 to 8 cm in height, weighs between 450 g to 1.5 kg and has a fat content of 45% in dry matter. There is a special type called Petit-Munster, Little Munster or Petit Munster Géromé, Little Munster Géromé, which is 7 to 12 cm in height and 120 grams. The rind is washed with Brevibacterium linens, which creates the distinctive smell of dirty socks. The cheese has a slick and shiny orange rind; a semi-soft body; an intense nose with a sharp bite yet a subtle and creamy taste.

Munster fermier is produced in the Vosges and Pays Welsche and accounts for about 8% of the overall production. A 1 pound Munster cheese requires about 5 litres of milk. It is traditionally produced in the morning. The milk of the first milking is mixed with the skimmed milk of the day before. In a big copper cauldron, called a Kessel, the milk is warmed at 32°C and the rennet added, then cut one hour later. The curds are then put into moulds, salted and turned constantly before going to the cave for maturing. Once in the cave, the cheese is hand-rubbed every two days, this turns its skin orange-red and gives it a characteristic taste. Affinage is generally about two to three months.

Munster works well with white wines rich in sugars: Alsatian Gewurztraminer, Tokay pinot-gris or Gewurtztraminer are appropriate. The usual way of consuming Munster cheese is on a piece of bread. Some like it with cumin although most locals will tell you this is definitely 'not done!'. It can also be used similarly to a Vacherin Mont d'Or, molten over potatoes with a salad, or in a tartiflette or raclette as well. As a desert, many farms offer siesskas, fromage blanc of the day, with cream, sugar and kirsch. The best season for Munster spreads from May to October.
Confrérie Saint Grégoire du Taste-Fromage de la Vallée de Munster
This professional society was created in 1987 and has about 450 members who celebrate this great cheese. The robe worn by the members reminds us of the monk's habit from the Munster Abbey. Each member has a bronze medal with the escutcheon of the village of Munster in the centre and around it the escutcheons of the 15 other towns of the district.

Source: Office de Tourisme de la Vallée de Munster

Bargkass

The Bargkass is native of the Vosges. In the communes of la Poche de Colmar it is also called Barikaas. In Alsace, barg means mountain, and kass cheese. It is manufactured in the mountain villages of the Vosges, primarily Thillot, and the farms dotting the fields along the Route des Crêtes. Cows graze on lands covered by the typical flora of the Vosges Mountains which contain herbs, flower and blueberries. It is therefore not unusual to find this cheese has a subtle taste of blueberry.

The cheese is pressed, uncooked, raw cow's milk. It is has a yellow orange centre; an orange rind and is sprinkled with small holes. The wheel has a diameter of 30 inches and is 6 inches thick. It weighs between 7 to 8 kg. During ripening, which lasts two months, the cheese is washed with brine and turned every week. Its fat content is 45% dry matter.

The cheese is very simple traditional yet refined and is often low in salt. It is usually eaten to finish a meal with bread and goes well with typical Alsace Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat d'Alsace.

Brouère

In the Alsatian dialect, Brouère means bruyère or heath. The pastures of the Vosges Mountains in the Lorraine grazed by Alsatian cattle are full of herbs, flowers and berries, which gives the from the region a characteristic flavour. The rind is orange embossed by wooden forms that are hand-carved by a sculptor with the caipercaillies (grouse) that also graze the pastures. It is made by the Fromagerie de l'Hermitage in Bulgnéville near Vittel and each wheel is signed and numbered by its maker. The wheels are 43 cm in diameter and only 12 kilos each, the smallest of the fromages de garde or cheese requiring long affinage. They require 4 to 7 months to mature and have a fat content of 45% dry matter. This cheese is a superb mountain cheese made from cow's milk and is a typical hard, dry gouda-type cheese, but in the mouth, it developes a rich caramel flavour similar to Swiss Gruyère.

Tomme fermière des hautes Vosges



This tomme from the high Vosges Mountains is made with pasteurised goat's milk but made in an artisanal style. It is a non-cooked pressed pate, requires 2 - 4 month affinage, has a fat content of 50% and a pronounced goat taste. It pairs well with Reisling.

Bibalakass

Bibalakas (or bibalaskas) is a cheese made by mashing fromage blanc, i.e., fresh cow's milk cheese, made that day or the day before, therefore; not matured, with cream, onions, salt and pepper. It is also sometimes made with freshly grated horseradish. Traditionally it is eaten with boiled potatoes.

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