World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Abondance from France
Country: France 🇫🇷
Made from: Cow’s milk
Texture: semi-hard, creamy, supple
Taste: acidic, buttery, fruity, sweet
Certification: AOC, AOP/PDO
Aging: at least 3 months
Tomme d'Abondance or Abondance is a medium-sized mountain cheese from the Haute Savoie region of France in the Rhone-Alps. Made exclusively from the whole and unpasteurized milk of Abondance, Tarine and Montbéliarde cows, this cheese is produced in the mountainous region of Haute-Savoie, stretching from the Abondance Valley to the Aravis, passing by the Pays du Mont-Blanc.
Named after the valley where the cheese is made - as well as the village where it was first produced - Abondance is a cheese with a long history. The Valley of Abondance, located in the Haute-Savoie region of the French Alps, is where France and Switzerland meet, but Abondance is made only on the French side of the border.
Due to its long history, in 1990 it was awarded Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée protection. As part of this designation, Abondance must be made in a traditional manner, which includes regulations around the communities of dairies that produce the cheese. Currently there are around sixty licensed farm and co-operative producers, or fruitières, of the cheese. They're all located in the Haute-Savoie region, and the milk for the cheese must hail from the same area.
To make the cheese, raw milk is poured into a copper cauldron, which is heated to warm the milk. Rennet is added to coagulate the milk and, once the curds are formed, they are cut and re-heated to a higher temperature before being cut again by hand. Then, using cheesecloth, curds are strained and placed into molds, which form the iconic wide wheels with concave sides. After being under the mechanical press for one day, the cheeses are plunged into a brine bath for one day. After which, they are turned on pine maturation boards every 2 days. It takes at least 100 days to be ready for tasting, and before releasing its subtle aromas.
Abondance has a bright orange rind as a result of its 100-day aging in the cool and moist aging caves. The interior paste is light yellow with a slight sheen and a few small eyes dotted throughout. It has a soft and melting texture, ivory to pale yellow in colour, has a fruity taste coming from notes of pineapple, apricot, citrus and hazelnuts. On average 10 L of milk are needed to make 1 kg of Abondance. Production is by traditional methods: the size of the creameries is regulated and many operations on the farm are still carried out manually.
The marks present on the crust of Abondance cheese are due to the linen cloth that surrounds the cheese during the moulding process. Abondance is identified with a green oval label for farm cheeses and a red square label for creamery cheeses. This identification mark guarantees traceability and makes it possible to locate the production site of each wheel. The cheese weighs between 6 and 12 kg (about 10 kg on average) and is 7 to 8 cm high.
For fifteen centuries, Abondance cows, with their brown bodies and distinct white markings, have grazed in Alpine pastures at altitudes of 4,300 to 6,000 feet above sea level during the summer. Along with two other local breeds, Tarentaise and Montbéliarde, Abondance cows produce the milk for this AOC/PDO-certified cheese.
Since the 11th century, the history of cheese in the Abondance Valley has been intrinsically linked to the history of the Abondance Abbey. The first written record of Abondance is from the twelfth century. Monks in the valley began producing Abondance as a means of generating income for their monasteries. By the fourteenth century, the cheese had won acclaim throughout Europe. In 1381 it was served at the conclave table during the election of Pope Clement VII in Avignon. It quickly found its place at the best tables of the Court of Savoy. At a time when cash was rare, the cheese became so well known that it was used as currency
Today, Abondance is produced by more than 70 farms and a dozen small creameries.
How to enjoy it
Abondance cheese can be enjoyed on its own or melted for a Berthoud, a typical Savoyard dish from Chablais. It can be used as a table cheese and works best when served with green apples or cornichons. It goes well with light wines, especially those from Savoy, such as Chasselas. You can partner Abondance with a wine from the same region, such as a dry white wine from the vineyards of Savoie-Bugey such as a Savoie Roussette, or a white Bugey. Abondance also blends perfectly with dry red wines such as from Chignin Savigny, Côtes d'Auvergne Boudes, Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise, Coteaux du Loir or Coteaux d'Ancenis. You can also pair it with dry whites such as Bourgogne Vézelay, Arbois, Côtes du Jura, Anjou or Saint-Pourçain.
Sources: lafromagerie.co.uk, cheese.com, culturecheesemag.com, Wikipedia, fromageabondance.fr