It takes 3 litres of milk to make one 400 gramme cheese. According to A.O.C. regulations, the milk used must come from the local area and the curd must be kneaded before it is drained. Milk is coagulated as soon as possible after milking, preferably when still warm from the udder. Curds are lightly cut and drained for 10 minutes, before being transferred to moulds and put in the curing room. Here the cheeses are kept in a humid environment for 6 to 8 weeks to mature. To obtain the washed rind they must be rinsed in brine at regular intervals.
The rind may become pink in colour and sticky to the touch as it ripens, and small holes may appear in the pâte. The odour can become very strong, but not as ammoniacal as the closely related Camembert. The best season for Pont l'Eveque is from the summer to early winter. In France it is often enjoyed with a glass of Normandy Cider.
Pont l'Eveque is made in a distinctive square shape which is achieved by cutting the curds into blocks rather than into small pieces or grains. One block makes one cheese. They are drained and placed in fat square molds. After dry-salting, the cheeses are ripened in humid cellars.
This pungent French gourmet cheese is still made on the farms of the Pays d'Auge in Normandy just as it has been for centuries.
The maturing cheeses are washed with brine to give a light tan-colored rind which develops the characteristic pungency of the cheese. Indeed the aroma is strong enough to qualify the cheese for the top ten most pungent French cheeses, but it should not be so strong that it is unpleasant.
The yellow paste is supple with a few small holes. The aroma from the rind is strong but not overpowering. There are farmyard smells with bacon and ammonia. The paste has a much milder aroma reminiscent of nuts. The flavor is relatively mild and sweet, with grassy herbaceous tones and shortbread cookies. Isigny St. Mere received a bronze award at the World Cheese Awards in 2010.
PONT L'EVÊQUE. — Pont l'Evêque cheese is a variety with a great local reputation in the north of one of the most important dairy departments of France. It takes its name from a village not far from Havre and Lisieux, and is sold in considerable quantities in the fashionable watering-places of Trouville and Deauville. I was enabled to see the system pursued by the most famous maker, a highly intelligent farmer, upon his own farm near Pont l'Evêque. This cheese, although unpressed, is firmer in texture than either the Brie 0r the Camembert, owing to its being deprived of its whey with much greater rapidity. The cheese is either square or oblong, slightly less than an inch in thickness, and weighing from 14 to 17 ounces, for the size is not uniform; its crust is comparatively tough, and it may be kept for a considerable time with safety. Practically speaking, a gallon of milk will produce a good cheese, but as milk varies considerably in quality, it follows that very rich milk would produce a much larger cheese than poor milk. The milk is set at a temperature of 88° F., with sufficient rennet to bring the curd in fifteen minutes. A large rush or rye-straw mat is laid upon the draining-table. This mat may measure a yard in length by 26 to 30 inches in width, in accordance with the quantity of curd handled. When the curd is firm enough to remove, it is gently cut in cubes of large size, and with equal gentleness removed with a metal dish on to the mat, where it immediately commences to part with its whey. As the whey runs off, the curd toughens, the ends of the mat are drawn together, the slight pressure involved causes a still further loss of whey, and this goes on until the curd can be handled and placed in the metal moulds, which are made in accordance with the size the cheeses are intended to be. The newly-moulded cheese is then placed upon a small mat, and on the evening of the first day turned on to another mat. The result is that both sides of the cheese are free from fractures, the curd being homogeneous, and both are marked with the straws. It need hardly be added that where a large number of cheeses are made the mats are numerous and large, and provision is made for the moulds to stand side by side in order that space may be economized. Turning goes on from day to day until the metal mould is removed. Fungi then gradually appear on the outside of the cheese until it is ultimately covered with blue. This growth depends upon the temperature adopted: in the first stage of manufacture the temperature of the dairy is 63°; when the cheese is removed into the first ripening apartment it is kept at 58°, and when it is taken to the cave for slow ripening, it is kept at 56°. Here, again, the apartment should be slightly humid as well as cool, one reason being that it is essential to maintain the moist character of the cheese, and to prevent the evaporation which, if allowed to continue, would ensure its being dry, unpalatable, and unsalable.
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