World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Beaufort from France.
Country: France 🇫🇷
Made from: Cow’s milk
Texture: creamy and smooth
Taste: flowery, meaty, buttery
Aging: 4 – 12 months
Beaufort is a remarkable cheese, one of the noble Alpine cheeses. It's produced exclusively from unpasteurized cow's milk in the French Alps of the Haute-Savoie, from the milk of cows that, in the best examples of the cheese, graze on sustainable mountain pastures, imparting unique grassy, flowery aromas to the meaty cheeses, which have a firm yet buttery taste which melts easily in the mouth.
It's a behemoth of a cheese, with wheels weighing up to 130 pounds. It has a much subtler taste than Swiss Gruyere or Comté because its curd is cooked at a much lower temperature, which also leads to a slightly more giving, creamy paste.
Beaufort cheeses come in three versions, Beaufort, Beaufort d'été (summer Beaufort),and Beaufort d'Alpage which is made in the mountain chalets and is the most tasty.
Beaufort cheese is pale yellow, with a smooth and creamy texture and lacks holes like other Gruyère-style cheeses, Comté, Vacherin Fribourgeois or Emmental.
Beaufort is produced in the Beaufortain, Tarentaise and Maurienne valleys, as well as parts of the Val d'Arly valley, all located on 450,000 hectares of the Savoie region. The cheese is prepared using 11 liters (2.9 U.S. gal) of milk for every 1 kg (2.2 lb) of cheese desired. The milk used in one variety comes from the Tarine or Abondance cows that graze in the Alps.
To make Beaufort, first, the milk is heated and then cast into a beechwood hoop or mold which gives the cheese its distinctive concave shape. It is pressed for 24 hours, taken out of the hoops and then cooled for another 24 hours. Once cooled, it is soaked in brine and then stored on spruce shelves for one to two months. During this part of the process, one side of the cheese is hand-salted each morning, then turned over and massaged each afternoon. Once the cheese rind has reached a level of maturity, the cheese is smear-ripened with a mixture called morge which produces its strong flavour and pale yellow rind.
Ripening takes at least four months and up to 12 months in humid (92%) cellars with the temperature below 15° . The cheeses are constantly wiped and rubbed with brine. Young cheeses have a mild fruity, sweet taste then the taste become stronger and complex. The pate of the winter cheese is white, whereas the summer cheeses are a pale yellow, due to the cows munching on the alpine flowers.
Beaufort has strict AOC labeling requirements. Beaufort alpage must be made in a mountain chalet, during the summer months, from a single herd of cattle grazing in the mountain pastures. This Beaufort, on top of the meaty, caramel, and buttery flavors common to all the cheeses, has floral and herbal notes from the grazing ground that are distinct from any other herd's cheese.
Beaufort has been celebrated since the Roman era. 18th century gastronome Brillat-Savarin called it the Prince of Gruyeres, and it remains one of the most impressive traditional, raw milk cheeses available. (Note that the best Beaufort is much subtler than Swiss Gruyere). Enormous 85-pound wheels are trundled down from the Savoie Alps at the end of fleeting summers where indigenous cows have feasted on sloping meadows of flowers and grass. Its characteristic shape—a large, thick wheel with concave sides allowed farmers to easily transport them down the mountains by winding ropes around the wheels, so as to lash them to a donkey. It takes about 500 litres (130 gallons) of milk to make a 40-45 kg wheel of Beaufort. The cheese is made from the milk given by the mahogany-coloured Beaufort cows, called the Tarines or Tarentaises. This ancient mountain breed originally came from the Indo-Asian continent.
How to enjoy it
Beaufort is commonly used to make cheese fondue because it melts easily. One of the many cheeses that go well with white wine, Beaufort is often enjoyed with fish, especially salmon. Pair it with a white from the Savoie region such as a Bugey.
Source: Wikipedia, cheese.com, fromages.com, seriouseats.com, The Reluctant Gourmet, Murray’s Cheese